Females of many species are attracted to large, conspicuous males. But among animals that mate with many partners, a male that manages to score with one female can increase his chances of attracting others even if he's nothing much to look at. New research shows that, in some fish at least, smaller, less flashy males can also win female mates by flirting with larger males. Working with the tropical freshwater fish Poecilia mexicana, researchers showed female fish video footage of small, drab-colored males "nipping" the genital openings of larger, brightly colored males—an action that precedes mating in opposite-sex fish pairs. After witnessing this behavior, the female fish indicated their awakened interest by spending more time swimming near the images of the formerly unimpressive males, the researchers report online today in Biology Letters. The finding suggests that, far from being an evolutionary dead end, homosexual behavior can enhance a male's ability to pass on his genes by attracting females that wouldn't be interested in him otherwise.
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