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UNDERSTANDING PROMISCUITY: WHEN IS SEEKING ADDITIONAL MATES BETTER THAN GUARDING AN ALREADY FOUND ONE?

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Abstract

Paternity protection and the acquisition of multiple mates select for different traits. The consensus from theoretical work is that mate-guarding intensifies with an increasing male bias in the adult sex ratio (ASR). A male bias can thus lead to male monogamy if guarding takes up the entire male time budget. Given that either female- or male-biased ASRs are possible, why is promiscuity clearly much more common than male monogamy? We address this question with two models, differing in whether males can assess temporal cues of female fertility. Our results confirm the importance of the ASR: guarding durations increase with decreasing female availability and increasing number of male competitors. However, several factors prevent the mating system from switching to male monogamy as soon as the ASR becomes male biased. Inefficient guarding, incomplete last male sperm precedence, any mechanism that allows sperm to fertilize eggs after the male's departure, and (in some cases) the unfeasibility of precopulatory guarding all help explain cases where promiscuity exists on its own or alongside temporally limited mate-guarding. Shortening the window of fertilization shifts guarding time budgets from the postcopulatory to the precopulatory stage.

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