Mate-choice copying by females has been reported in fishes (e.g., guppies) and lekking birds. Presumably, females assess males' quality using both information from direct observation of males and information acquired by observing other females' choices. Here, we study mathematically the conditions under which mate-choice copying is advantageous on the basis of Bayesian decision theory. A female may observe the mate choice of another female, called the model female, who has performed an optimal choice based on her own judgment. The conditions required for the focal female to choose the same mate as that chosen by the model female should depend on the male's appearance to her, the reliability of her own judgment of male quality, and the reliability of the model females. When three or more females are involved, the optimal mate choice critically depends on whether multiple model females make decisions independently or they themselves copy the choices of others. If two equally reliable females choose different males, the choice of the second female, made knowing the choice of the first, should have a stronger effect on the choice of the third (focal) female. This "last-choice precedence" should be tested experimentally.
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