Evol Ecol Res 7: 697-715 (2005)     Full PDF if your library subscribes.

The evolution of prudent choice

Roger Härdling1* and Hanna Kokko2,3

1Department of Animal Ecology, Ecology Building, Lund University, S-223 62 Lund, Sweden,  2Laboratory of Ecological and Evolutionary Dynamics, Department of Ecology and Systematics, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, FIN-00014, Finland and  3School of Botany and Zoology, Australian National University, Canberra, ACT 0200, Australia

Author to whom all correspondence should be addressed.
e-mail: roger.hardling@zooekol.lu.se


Question: What mate choice strategies are evolutionarily stable when individuals vary in quality and there is competition over mates?

Mathematical method: We analyse a life-history-based game theoretical model of a mating system. The evolutionarily stable strategy (ESS) may be random mating, or any kind of assortative mating dependent on the numerical values of a set of probabilities. We solve for the evolutionarily stable probability values.

Key assumptions: Males of high or poor competitive ability pair with highly or poorly fecund females, and can also attempt to take over a female if she has already paired. Only one sex plays an active role in mate choice.

Conclusions: We show that increased opportunities for a successful takeover favours the evolution of ‘prudent’ mate choice, where low-quality males reject high-quality females, and high-quality males reject low-quality females. This solution may also evolve because of high fighting costs. Alternative parameter settings lead to solutions where only one class of males discriminates between females, or when all males mate indiscriminately. We calculate the correlation between male and female quality in pairs, and show that this correlation may be positive, zero or even negative, depending on the ESS mate choice strategy.

Keywords: assortative mating, evolutionarily stable strategy, game theory, life-history model, mate choice, mate competition, non-random mating, takeover.

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