By Bobette R. Dickerson, Mary F. Willson, Paul Bentzen, Thomas P. Quinn
Animal Behaviour, Volume 68, Issue 2, August 2004, Pages 381-385, ISSN 0003-3472, DOI: 10.1016/j.anbehav.2003.07.014.

Driven by competition and mate choice, size-assortative mating has been seen in many organisms. The breeding system of salmonid fish, Oncorhynchus spp., has been extensively investigated and many examples of size-assortative mating have been found. However, assortative mating is not always observed and many reported examples involved cases with a large dichotomy in size classes or were conducted in artificial arenas where other factors influencing mate choice and competition were controlled. This study investigated size-assortative mating in a population of naturally reproducing pink salmon, O. gorbuscha. We made direct observations of courtship behaviour over 3 years on fish of known sizes. To determine the extent to which these observations corresponded to reproductive success, we assessed the parentage of the offspring produced by the fish in the first 2 years of the study using DNA fingerprinting. Size-assortative mating was not seen in the behavioural observations. Parentage results showed that our measure of dominance (proximity of males to ripe females) corresponded with successful matings, suggesting that the fish that we observed as dominant were in fact involved in more matings or more successful matings. We also saw no size-assortative mating in male and female pairs that produced adult offspring. We are not suggesting that the processes that can lead to size-assortative mating are not occurring, but that many other factors, such as female ripeness, male availability, predation threat and changing environmental conditions, may minimize the importance or mask the occurrence of size-assortative mating under natural conditions.

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