Personality May Confound Common Measures of Mate-Choice
The measurement of female mating preferences is central to the study of the evolution of male ornaments. Although several different methods have been developed to assess sexual preference in some standardized way, the most commonly used procedure consists of recording female spatial association with different males presented simultaneously. Sexual preference is then inferred from time spent in front of each male. However, the extent to which the measurement of female mate-choice is related to exploration tendencies has not been addressed so far. In the present study we assessed the influence of variation in exploration tendencies, a trait closely associated to global personality, on the measurement of female mating preference in the zebra finch (Taeniopygia guttata) using the widely used four-chamber choice-apparatus. The number of movements performed within both exploration and mate-choice apparatus was consistent within and across the two contexts. In addition, personality explained variation in selectivity, preference strength and consistency. High-exploratory females showed lower selectivity, lower preference scores and displayed more consistent preference scores. Our results suggest that variation in personality may affect the measurement of female mating preference and may contribute to explain existing inconsistencies across studies.