media release

Mating trends in animal world favour flexibility

May 25, 2011

Laura Weir, 778.782.3193;
Marianne Meadahl, PAMR, 778.782.3210/9017;


A team of researchers led by a scientist from Simon Fraser University has found that flexibility in mating rituals in the animal world is the key to reproductive success when males outnumber females.

Headed by SFU postdoctoral fellow Laura Weir, the researchers studied hundreds of investigations on mating trends in mammals, insects, fish, crustaceans, amphibians and reptiles.

As males compete for females during mating periods, courtship and fighting – behavior typically associates with competition for mates – can drastically change to desperately seeking a partner when males are outnumbered.

“We tend to think that more males leads to more fighting, but after a point, fighting with every male around is too tiring,” says Weir, who worked with researchers at Concordia and Dalhousie University.

“It’s also risky because of the increase chances of injury – and of having their potential mate stolen away by another who is more attentive.”

The team found that males often choose the element of surprise as their weapon of choice when battling for mates. They also tend to guard mates and are more likely to stick around during mate shortages – but when the field is large, they’ll trade old partners for newer, willing ones.

Their paper, The Influence of Operational Sex Ratio on the Intensity of Competition for Mates, appears in The American Naturalist.

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