• female mate choice;
  • male-male competition;
  • polygamy;
  • reproductive strategies;
  • sexual selection


  • 1
    Research on mating systems and reproductive strategies is valuable for providing ethological knowledge, important for the management and conservation of a species, and in a broader sense, important for biodiversity conservation.
  • 2
    We reviewed the literature to document the mating system of the brown bear Ursus arctos. We determined that many aspects of the reproduction of the brown bear remain unclear, including (i) biological aspects, such as hormone and oestrous cycling, sperm competition, mate choice, sexually selected infanticide, etc. and (ii) human impacts on the mating system, occurring when humans alter population size and structure, through, for example, hunting or habitat degradation.
  • 3
    We considered three mating system classification frameworks from the literature (Emlen & Oring 1977, Clutton-Brock 1989, Shuster & Wade 2003) and applied various brown bear populations to them. We did this (i) to document the plasticity of the mating system of the brown bear, and (ii) to find commonalities among the reported mating system classifications in order to provide a general and common classification of the brown bear's mating system.
  • 4
    The mating system of the brown bear can, in general, be classed as ‘polygamous’. Subclassifications can nevertheless be valuable on smaller spatial scales.
  • 5
    Within the polygamous mating system of the brown bear, biological aspects and human impacts can influence reproductive strategies at the individual and population level. Mating system classification frameworks often lack a common terminology, which contributes to the variety of published classifications of the mating system of the brown bear.