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In guppy courtship, the unusual male wins

When it comes to choosing a mate, female guppies often go for mates with the flashiest, most interesting color patterns. In a new study, National Science Foundation-funded researchers found that the choices of these tiny, tropical fish can be understood through a common type of learning called habituation. Through habituation, animals -- in this case guppies -- stop responding to a stimulus after prolonged exposure and will be attracted to a new stimulus. In other words, the female guppy is often immune to the charms of a male guppy that looks like all the other male guppies. Ones with unusual color patterns stand a better chance at successfully wooing a mate. The scientists say that no one had linked the idea of habituation and novelty to mate choice. The researchers believe their project is a good example of how ideas from different fields can be helpful in explaining biology.

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