We study how animals choose mates on the basis of mating signals. In most animals, females choose males and this is often by evaluating characteristics of male mating displays. We seek to understand which characteristics of mating signals are important for mate choice, and why. In particular, we use a method in which we measure the shape of female preference functions, which allows us to estimate the adaptive landscape of phenotypic evolution because the shape of the function should be an estimate of the strength and direction of sexual selection acting on male mating signal characteristics.
We utilize the method to examine the context-dependence of sexual selection. If female mating preferences are affected by social or environmental conditions, either because of interference with sensory mechanisms or strategic behavioral plasticity, then the shape of preference functions may depend on the context in which preferences are measured. This in turn implies that sexual selection will act differently under different environmental conditions, which may result in divergence of populations in different environments, strong responses to anthropogenic change, and selection on signalers to adjust their behavior to environmental conditions. Within this topic, we are particularly interested in the effects of noise (including anthropogenic noise), and complex and multicomponent signals on female mate choice.
Dr. Reichert was also involved in the conception of software for describing and measuring the shape of preference functions and other function-valued traits, which can be downloaded here.
J.T. Kilmer, K.D. Fowler-Finn, D.A. Gray, G. Höbel, D. Rebar, M.S. Reichert and R.L. Rodríguez. 2017. Describing mate preference functions and other function-valued traits. Journal of Evolutionary Biology 30: 1658-1673
M.S. Reichert, H. Galante and G. Höbel. 2014. Female grey treefrogs, Hyla versicolor, are responsive to visual stimuli but unselective of stimulus characteristics. Journal of Experimental Biology 217: 3254-3262