Guppies might look like mindless, mouth-breathing little bastards, but it turns out some of them make better dating decisions than we do. No, really—these tiny fish, with their infinitesimal brains, are somehow more discerning with their mates than us, and we literally invented rockets. And Doritos.
A new study, published on March 22nd in Science Advances, suggests that female guppies with larger brains might be better at picking attractive partners. While it’s tough to qualify any fish as “sexy,” according to the paper, the lady guppies with larger brains were more likely to choose male partners that were more colorful and had larger tails, signifying better health and foraging abilities.
To reach that conclusion, the researchers selected 36 female guppies bred for large brains, 36 bred for small brains, and 16 comparable to wild guppies. Each female guppy was given the chance to interact with two males—one colorful and the other drab. Researchers recorded how much time each female guppy spent with each of the male guppies, and surprise—the larger brained females (and wild ones) strongly preferred the colorful males. The smaller brained ones showed no preference for sexier mates.
To be fair, through various tests, the team found that smaller brained guppies tended to grow faster and produce more offspring. Maybe it’s just easier to get laid when you have really low standards.
“What we suggest is that being able to choose a better male and the fitness benefits you acquire compensates for the energy required to grow a larger brain, from an evolutionary point of view,” lead author Corral López said in a statement.
While understanding guppies’ cognitive abilities won’t help us understand our own dating habits, the study presents a good opportunity to reflect: Very stupid little fish are getting hotter and ostensibly more successful dates than we are, and maybe this is our own damn fault.