Male playback video files from Mate choice in the eye and ear of the beholder? Female multimodal sensory configuration influences her preferences

A common assumption in sexual selection studies is that receivers decode signal information similarly. However, receivers may vary in how they rank signallers if signal perception varies with an individual's sensory configuration. Furthermore, receivers may vary in their weighting of different elements of multimodal signals based on their sensory configuration. This could lead to complex levels of selection on signalling traits. We tested whether multimodal sensory configuration could affect preferences for multimodal signals. We used brown-headed cowbird (<i>Molothrus ater</i>) females to examine how auditory sensitivity and auditory filters, which influence auditory spectral and temporal resolution, affect song preferences, and how visual spatial resolution and visual temporal resolution, which influence resolution of a moving visual signal, affect visual display preferences. Our results show that multimodal sensory configuration significantly affects preferences for male displays: females with better auditory temporal resolution preferred songs that were shorter, with lower Wiener entropy, and higher frequency; and females with better visual temporal resolution preferred males with less intense visual displays. Our findings provide new insights into mate-choice decisions and receiver signal processing. Furthermore, our results challenge a long-standing assumption in animal communication which can affect how we address honest signalling, assortative mating and sensory drive.