Allee effects, mating systems and the extinction risk in populations with two sexes




The Allee effect is one of the population consequences of sexual reproduction that has received increased attention in recent years. Due to its impact on small population dynamics, it is commonly accepted that Allee effects should render populations more extinction prone. In particular, monogamous species are considered more susceptible to the Allee effect and hence, more extinction prone, than polygamous species. Although this hypothesis has received theoretical support, there is little empirical evidence. In this study, we investigate (1) how variation in tertiary sex ratio affects the presence and intensity of the Allee effect induced by mating system, as well as (2) how this effect contributes to extinction risk. In contrast with previous predictions, we show that all mating systems are likely to experience a strong Allee effect when the operational sex ratio (OSR) is balanced. This strong Allee effect does not imply being exceptionally extinction prone because it is associated with an OSR that result in a relatively small extinction risk. As a consequence, the impact of Allee effects on overall extinction risk is buffered. Moreover, the OSR of natural populations appears to be often male biased, thus making it unlikely that they will suffer from an Allee effect induced by mating system.