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Q Rev Biol. 2005 Mar;80(1):28-35.

How do we decide that a species is sex-role reversed?

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Department of Integrative Biology, University of California, Berkeley, California 94720-3140, USA.


Defining sex roles has been driven by differences in mating systems at the extreme: polygyny and polyandry. Roles may reverse depending on which sex limits the reproductive rate of the other, and it is generally the female that limits the male. Males therefore compete for female mates. But in species in which the male limits the reproductive rate of the female, the female competes for male mates and assumes the masculine role. Complications arise, however, in species with typical roles when males are temporarily limiting, and females then briefly compete for and display to males. Problems also occur among tightly monogamous species with biparental care, where the mates have equal reproductive rates; both males and females compete intrasexually for mates. Despite this, monogamous species have masculine and feminine roles, typically manifested as the male dominating the female. Some monogamous species are nevertheless sex-role reversed. The pervasive behavioral mechanism characterizing the masculine role is dominance through aggression, size, or both. Attending more to behavioral mechanisms will enrich our understanding of sex-role reversal.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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