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Proc Biol Sci. 1994 Jan 22;255(1342):13-9.

Is mate choice copying or aggregation responsible for skewed distributions of females on leks?

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  • 1Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge, U.K.

Abstract

In several lek-breeding populations of birds and mammals, females arriving on leks tend to join males that already have females in their territories. This might occur either because females have an evolved preference for mating with males that are attractive to other females, or because they join groups of other females to obtain greater safety from predation or dangerous harassment by males. We have previously used controlled experiments to show that oestrous fallow deer females join males with established harems because they are attracted to female groups rather than to the males themselves. Here we demonstrate that the preference for males with females over males without females is specific to oestrous females and weak or absent in anoestrous ones, and that it is not associated with a preference for mating with males that have previously been seen to mate with other females. Furthermore, oestrous females given the choice between males that do not already have females with them show no significant preference for antlered over deantlered males or for older males over younger ones. We conclude that female attraction to other females on the lek is likely to be an adaptation to avoiding harassment in mixed-sex herds. In this situation, a male's ability to maintain the cohesion of his harem may be the principal cause of variation in mating success between males.

PMID:
8153135
DOI:
10.1098/rspb.1994.0003
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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