Social implications of the battle of the sexes: sexual harassment disrupts female sociality and social recognition

S K Darden, Richard James, I W Ramnarine, D P Croft

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Citations (SciVal)


Across sexually reproducing species, males and females are in conflict over the control of reproduction. At the heart of this conflict in a number of taxa is male harassment of females for mating opportunities and female strategies to avoid this harassment. One neglected consequence that may result from sexual harassment is the disruption of important social associations. Here, we experimentally manipulate the degree of sexual harassment that wild female guppies (Poecilia reticulata) experience by establishing replicated, semi-natural pools with different population sex ratios. We quantify the effects of sexual harassment on female social structure and the development of social recognition among females. When exposed to sexual harassment, we found that females had more disparate social networks with limited repeated interactions when compared to females that did not experience male harassment. Furthermore, females that did not experience harassment developed social recognition with familiar individuals over an 8-day period, whereas females that experienced harassment did not, an effect we suggest is due to disruption of association patterns. These results show that social network structure and social recognition can be affected by sexual harassment, an effect that will be relevant across taxonomic groups and that we predict will have fitness consequences for females.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2651-2656
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1667
Publication statusPublished - 2009


  • social network
  • Poecilia reticulata
  • familiarity
  • sexual harassment
  • sexual conflict
  • social recognition


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