, Volume 57, Issue 1, pp 91-100
Date: 03 Aug 2004

Selected polyandry: female choice and inter-sexual conflict in a small nocturnal solitary primate (Microcebus murinus)

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Abstract

Sex-specific interests over the maximization of reproductive success lead to an inter-sexual conflict over the optimal mating system in a species. Traditionally, the outcome of this inter-sexual conflict has been studied from the male perspective but it also depends on female mating strategies, such as manipulating the temporal distribution of sexual activity, advertisement, and mate choice. We used a small nocturnal primate, the gray mouse lemur (Microcebus murinus) to determine the relative importance of female mating strategies on the outcome of this conflict in a species where females are solitary during their activity period. We studied their mating behavior over three consecutive annual mating seasons and determined the genetic relationships among more than 300 study animals to quantify individual reproductive success. We found that most females were receptive asynchronously. Females did not exhibit any obvious direct mate choice, probably due to a highly male-biased operational sex ratio and the corresponding costs of choosiness. However, females exercised indirect choice for multiple matings. They mated with 1–7 males up to 11 times during their single night of receptivity. As a result, mixed paternity was common but heavier males sired more offspring, meaning that indirect female choice for superior males cannot be excluded. Females exhibited a mixed mating strategy, avoiding costly direct mate choice but still counteracting male efforts to monopolize mating, successfully increasing genetic variability among offspring. Thus, females had a major influence on the outcome of the inter-sexual conflict despite male monopolization attempts.

Communicated by J. Setchell