When not to copy: female fruit flies use sophisticated public information to avoid mated males.
Semen limitation (lack of semen to fertilize all of a female's eggs) imposes high fitness costs to female partners. Females should therefore avoid mating with semen-limited males. This can be achieved by using public information extracted from watching individual males' previous copulating activities. This adaptive preference should be flexible given that semen limitation is temporary. We first demonstrate that the number of offspring produced by males Drosophila melanogaster gradually decreases over successive copulations. We then show that females avoid mating with males they just watched copulating and that visual public cues are sufficient to elicit this response. Finally, after males were given the time to replenish their sperm reserves, females did not avoid the males they previously saw copulating anymore. These results suggest that female fruit flies may have evolved sophisticated behavioural processes of resistance to semen-limited males, and demonstrate unsuspected adaptive context-dependent mate choice in an invertebrate.