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Proc Biol Sci. 2006 Feb 7;273(1584):283-91.

The dilemma of female mate selection in the brown bear, a species with sexually selected infanticide.

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  • 1Laboratoire d'Ecologie Alpine, CNRS UMR 5553, Université Joseph Fourier, BP 53, 38041 Grenoble Cedex 9, France.


Because of differential investment in gametes between sexes, females tend to be the more selective sex. Based on this concept, we investigate mate selection in a large carnivore: the brown bear (Ursus arctos). We hypothesize that, in this species with sexually selected infanticide (SSI), females may be faced with a dilemma: either select a high-quality partner based on phenotypic criteria, as suggested by theories of mate choice, or rather mate with future potentially infanticidal males as a counter-strategy to SSI. We evaluated which male characteristics were important in paternity assignment. Among males available in the vicinity of the females, the largest, most heterozygous and less inbred and also the geographically closest males were more often the fathers of the female's next litter. We suggest that female brown bears may select the closest males as a counter-strategy to infanticide and exercise a post-copulatory cryptic choice, based on physical attributes, such as a large body size, reflecting male genetic quality. However, male-male competition either in the form of fighting before copulation or during the post-copulatory phase, in the form of sperm competition, cannot entirely be ruled out.

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