With Valentine’s Day around the corner, plenty of us are getting our annual harsh reminder that finding love can be really, really hard. We might like to say it’s not so, but the fact is, whether you’re a guppy or a human, looks count for a lot in the dating game. Like most things, though, looks are all relative — the worse looking the crowd we find ourselves in, the better looking we seem to be. According to a study published this week in the Proceedings of the Royal Academy of Science B, guppies looking for love long ago perfected the mating tactic of surrounding themselves with specimens less attractive than they are, a tried and true human trait on display in bars across the world every weekend.
It’s not pleasant, and it’s not noble, but the fact is plenty of us have invited a slightly more trollish friend out to act as our wingman for a night on the town — I mean, what’s your other option there? Invite a better looking guy out with you? That’s clearly a fool’s game. If you’ve never done this before, you have our congratulations on being a very good, decent and warmhearted human being, Or, our condolences on being the fuggliest fella in your friend group. Maybe both.
If you have done this, before, though, you’re thinking like a guppy, which is the first time in recorded history that set of words hasn’t been entirely derogatory. To test whether or not male guppies preferred the company of less attractive peers when researchers at the University of Western Australia placed two female guppies in a tank. One was surrounded by colorful males with lots of orange coloration — the true test of guppy attractiveness — and the other in the company of less colorful males. When a new male was introduced to the tank, the study found he tended to gravitate toward the female surrounded by less attractive males, sensing that the competition was easier.
The guppies also seemed to have a surprising degree of understanding of their own attractiveness, with less colorful males more likely to be drawn to the female already in the company of less attractive males. Since guppies are one of the few fish who reproduce internally — through traditional sex, rather than releasing eggs into the water where males then fertilize them — how good looking a guppy is can effect it’s chances of breeding, as males can keep mating with a female until a better looking example of guppy masculinity catches her eye.
For guppies whose best traits tend to be their sense of humor and don’t have it going on in the looks department, that means their best chance to keep mating is to be the best of bad lot. What can we say — we know that feel, bro.
- Puffer fish put a lot of work into making their love nests
- This fish is thinking about the other thing fish thinking about — eating
- Just keep hanging out next to this three-eyed fish and you’ll do fine