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Multiple mating in a lekking bird: why do peahens mate with more than one male and with the same male more than once?

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  • Mathematics


Approximately 50% of marked peahens (Pavo cristatus) mate more than once with lek males. Some females mate with more than one male, others copulate repeatedly with the same male. The frequency of courtship also shows marked variation. Some females repeatedly engage males in courtship interactions after they have succesfully copulated with them. The likelihood of mating with more than one male increases if a female first mates with a non-preferred (unsuccessful male). There is a non-significant tendency for females to copulate with a more successful male when remating. Peahens may mate with a non-preferred male first if they do not encounter a successful male during their initial period of choice, perhaps because the most successful male on a lek was courting another female and/or was defended by another female. There are more aggressive interactions between females in front of preferred males. Preferred males receive more repetitive courtship behaviour and repeated matings. Dominant females are more likely to engage in repetitive courtship and matings. The number of times a female initiates courtship on any one day increases with the number of other females actively courting males at a lek site on that day. We suggest that there is competition amongst females for access to preferred males and that dominant females try to monopolise these males by repeatedly engaging them in courtship interactions. We discuss the implications of these observations for the idea that female may gain directly from mate choice in a species where males contribute nothing but gametes to their offspring.

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