Choosing a mate is tough. Should he be a good provider or be easy to fool to allow a little fun on the side? Should she be able to better protect her offspring or turn a blind eye to infidelity? The mates individuals choose will shape how traits evolve simply because individuals that mate leave offspring in the future genetic lottery. But apart from individual preferences, there are many other abiotic factors that can shape the mates we choose: where we are located and who we meet, the risk of searching for a mate and the likelihood of finding one, and even when we start looking as this can change the density of available mates.

We explore how the social and abiotic environment shapes mate choice and the effect this has on the evolution of traits. We show that both males and females alter their choice because of the difficulty in finding what they prefer. Even males (the sex though to mate with anything available) is forced to make choices when females are fussy and competition is high. This is especially true in many spiders where males only have a single shot. I mean, wouldn’t you want to be careful with what you choose when that choice involves becoming dinner after the mating (or even during!).

Researchers involved: Michael Kasumovic, Alex Jordan, and Damian Elias