, Volume 40, Issue 1, pp 51-59

The tactics of mutual mate choice and competitive search

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A model of mutual mate choice is described, formulated as a dynamic game, which yields predictions about mating behaviour under the influence of time constraints, choice costs and competition for mates. These variables were examined because they may result in a change in the distribution of qualities among unmated individuals of both sexes over the course of the breeding season. The model predicts that mutual choice gives rise to assortative mating, although high costs of choice and/or inaccurate assessment both lead to lower overall correlations between the qualities (or the attractiveness) of mates. When all individuals are present from the start of the breeding season, the correlation between the qualities of individuals pairing at a given time declines throughout the season, so that mates are more closely matched among individuals who pair early than among those who pair late (and extra-pair copulation may thus be more common among the latter). Delayed arrival of lower-quality individuals may, however, lead to an increase in this correlation with time during the early part of the season. The mean quality of unmated males and females declines over time, because more attractive individuals tend to mate sooner. As a result of this decline, and because of time constraints, superior individuals become less choosy as the season progresses. If choice is costly, however, then inferior individuals become more selective with time during the early part of the season, and the level of choosiness peaks later for such individuals.

Received: 28 March 1996 / Accepted after revision: 21 September 1996