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Mate choice, and mate choice copying in cuttlefish

Project Description

Research Group: Behavioural Ecology Research Group (BEEC) -

Proposed supervisory team
Dr Gavan Cooke ()
Dr Sophie Mowles ()

Social behaviour

Summary of the research project

The common European cuttlefish has been extensively studied in captivity (Smith et al., 2013) yet we will know very little about their wild behaviour (Adamo, 2001). Boal (1996, 1997) showed in laboratory conditions that females use ‘mate choice’ copying (i.e. non-independent mate choice – Westneat et al., 2000) when making mate choice decisions, despite males competing directly for females, in theory preventing access by females to many males. Females are harassed and easily damaged which may explain why mate choice copying has evolved in this species (Westneat et al., 1999).

Females are polyandrous (Hanlon et al., 1999) and will often choose males exhibiting alternative mating tactics (e.g. sneaker female mimicking males) as seen in another species from the same genus (i.e. Sepia latimanus, Hanlon et al., 2005 and Sepia apama; Brown et al., 2012). Alternative mating tactics have recently been discovered in the focal species of this study and measuring the success rates of the various male strategies could reveal insights into how sexual selection operates in this group of cephalopods. Although seen in the wild, controlled aquarium experiments are lacking.

We have begun discussion with the MBA (Plymouth) for use of their aquarium facilities. We have an extensive array of field collaborators to provide guidance and assistance in any field work aspects.

Where you’ll study

Cambridge (

Next steps

If you wish to be considered for this project, you will need to apply for our Biology PhD ( In the section of the application form entitled ’Outline research proposal’, please quote the above title and include a research proposal.

Funding Notes

This project is self-funded.
Details of studentships for which funding is available are selected by a competitive process and are advertised on our jobs website (View Website) as they become available.

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