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Do males matter? The role of males in population dynamics


  • Daniel J. Rankin,

  • Hanna Kokko

D. J. Rankin ( and H. Kokko, Dept of Biological and Environmental Science, Univ. of Helsinki, PO Box 65 (Viikinkaari 1), FI-00014 Helsinki, Finland.


Models of population dynamics generally neglect the presence of males. While this assumption holds under many circumstances, behavioural ecology increasingly tells us that the presence (or absence) of males may have an impact on female fitness, and hence population sizes. Here we ask the question of whether males matter to population dynamics, operationally defined as a dependency of population growth on the relative density of males. We provide simple models, and evaluate the current empirical evidence for them, that illustrate various mechanisms of such male influence: mate searching behavior, male resource use (including effects of sexual dimorphism), sexual harassment and sexual segregation. In each case, theory predicts that males can have an effect on population densities, and in some extreme cases a positive feedback between an increasingly male-biased sex ratio and female harassment may theoretically even bring about population extinction. The results of this study, and the literature reviewed, show that the males can have a substantial effect on population dynamics, particularly so when human influences result in biased sex ratios.