Previous work on the bicolor damselfish, a species with exclusive male parental care of eggs, suggested that female mate choice was based on male characteristics. The aims of this study were to determine whether females discriminate among potential mates on the basis of courtship and, if so, to determine whether courtship serves as an indicator of male parental quality. Observations made over two reproductive cycles showed that courtship rates and mating success of individual males are positively correlated and that males begin courting several days before females begin laying eggs. Experimental manipulations showed that a male's courtship rate is indicative of the subsequent egg survival from his nest. We suggest that observed differences between males in their courtship rates and parental ability may be a result of differences in their energy reserves. These results demonstrate the operation of honest advertising and lend support to adaptive models of sexual selection. [Behav Ecol 1991;2:295–300]

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