Award Category

Natural Sciences and Mathematics

Publication Date



According to the principle of allocation, energy is limited and must be allocated by an organism amongst its life processes. The balance between growth and reproduction is of particular interest due to its implications for a species’ life history and evolutionary success. We examined this trade-off through a behavioral lens by determining how hunger level and conspecific sex impacted a male guppy’s choice between food and a courtship opportunity. Using twelve hungry and well-fed males, we set up a ten-gallon tank with food available on one end and another guppy, either male or female, on the other. An individual focal male was placed in the middle and the proportion of time he spent in each zone of the tank was recorded over a period of five minutes. By conducting three separate 2-way ANOVA’s, we found that hunger level did not significantly impact the males’ choice for food or social interaction and that there was a unanimous preference for feeding among both hunger levels and conspecific sexes, as was expected. This preference to eat, however, was stronger in focal males exposed to a female than in those exposed to a male. We therefore concluded that feeding, and thus the growth and survival benefits that ensue from it, is a higher priority than procreative efforts. However, the incentives for reproduction and the social dynamics of courtship for this species are more complex than initially presumed, and it is likely that a combination of both male and female attributes contribute to the observed patterns.

Faculty Advisor

Stacey Weiss


Biology 211: General Ecology