• Game-theory;
  • mating plug;
  • mating strategies;
  • sexual selection;
  • simulation;
  • sperm competition


Mating plugs are male-derived structures that may impede female remating by physically obstructing the female genital tract. Although mating plugs exist in many taxa, the forces shaping their evolution are poorly understood. A male can clearly benefit if his mating plug secures his paternity. It is unclear, however, how plug efficacy can be maintained over evolutionary time in the face of counteracting selection on males’ ability to remove any plugs placed by their rivals. Here, I present a game-theory model and a simulation model to address this problem. The models predict that evolutionarily stable levels of mating-plug efficacy should be high when (1) the number of mating attempts per female is low; (2) the sex ratio is male-biased, and (3) males are sperm-limited. I discuss these results in the light of empirical data.