Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 66, Issue 12, pp 1577–1586 | Cite as

Fighting behaviour as a correlate of male mating success in black grouse Tetrao tetrix

  • Anni Hämäläinen
  • Rauno V. Alatalo
  • Christophe Lebigre
  • Heli Siitari
  • Carl D. SoulsburyEmail author
Original Paper


Fighting is a fundamental determinant of male fitness in species where females prefer socially dominant males as mates or where dominants can prevent subordinates from mating. This in turn can lead to the evolution of honest inter- and intra-sexual cues of male dominance. Fighting as a behaviour comprises both fighting rate (number of fights per unit of time) and fighting performance (success in winning fights), but it is not always clear which of these components are important for female choice and how they link to signals of male quality. To quantify the relative importance of fighting as a cue for females, we recorded detailed behavioural data from male black grouse Tetrao tetrix at leks. We explored the relationship between phenotypic traits (body mass, eye comb size, tail (lyre) length and blue chroma colouration) and fighting performance and rates and how these were related to male mating success. In older males' pairwise fights, winners had lower blue chroma than losers, but there were no differences in other morphological traits. In yearlings, no morphological trait predicted success in pairwise contests. Both fighting rate and performance were positively related to the number of copulations acquired by a male; however, when controlled for lek centrality, fighting performance and not fighting rate was significantly related to mating success. Our results indicate that females may be using components of fighting behaviour as cues for mate choice.


Antagonistic Dominance Fighting Fitness Mate choice 



We would like to thank Robert Gibson and two anonymous referees for helpful comments. Funding for the study was received from the Academy of Finland and Societas Biologica Fennica Vanamo. Data collection was financed by the Finnish Centre of Excellence in Evolutionary Ecology (2001–2006) and Evolutionary Research (2007–2012) funded by the Academy of Finland.

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anni Hämäläinen
    • 1
    • 2
  • Rauno V. Alatalo
    • 1
  • Christophe Lebigre
    • 1
    • 3
  • Heli Siitari
    • 1
  • Carl D. Soulsbury
    • 1
    • 4
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Biological and Environmental ScienceUniversity of JyväskyläJyväskyläFinland
  2. 2.Department of Sociobiology/AnthropologyUniversity of GöttingenGöttingenGermany
  3. 3.Earth and Life Institute, Catholic University of LouvainLouvain-la-NeuveBelgium
  4. 4.School of Life Sciences, Riseholme CampusUniversity of LincolnLincolnUK

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