Researcher Alexander Ophir at McMaster University in Ontario became interested in Japanese quail fights. Quail males are always ready for a scrap, so much so folks in Asia used them in gambling bouts. Ophir set two males within view of each other, separated by glass. An amorous female quail was also positioned nearby.
You may think that the quail that was the roughest and the toughest got the girl. However, you would be wrong.
As a general rule, you’re correct: the males of many species will compete for the hand, or paw, or fin, of the females, and the dominant male gets the lady. But female quails actually chose the losers.
But doesn’t that go against survival of the fittest–the basic mechanism of evolution?
It seems to, but “fittest” just means “most able to pass along your genes.” In this instance, being the strongest male isn’t the only thing that counts. Japanese quail that can dominate other males are pretty rough on females, too. Ophir thinks that, after a little experience, females may prefer the losers because they, the females, stand less of a chance of being hurt in the mating process. Savvy females are looking for the less violent male.