Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 68, Issue 6, pp 879–889

Polyandrous mating in treetops: how male competition and female choice interact to determine an unusual carnivore mating system

Original Paper

DOI: 10.1007/s00265-014-1701-3

Cite this article as:
Lührs, ML. & Kappeler, P.M. Behav Ecol Sociobiol (2014) 68: 879. doi:10.1007/s00265-014-1701-3


The diversity of mammalian mating systems is primarily shaped by sex-specific reproductive strategies. In the present study, we explored determinants and consequences of a unique mating system exhibited by fossas (Cryptoprocta ferox), the largest Malagasy carnivore, where females mate polyandrously on traditional mating trees, and males exhibit intrasexual size dimorphism. Males face both contest and scramble competition, and inter-sexual size dimorphism can be pronounced, but its magnitude depends on the male morph. Using a continuous behavioral observation of six estrous females over 4 years, we investigated correlates of male contest competition and female choice based on 316 copulations. Furthermore, we assessed correlates of male scramble competition based on testes size and movement data obtained from GPS tracking. We found that females dominated males regardless of their smaller size and that females actively solicited copulations. Heavy males had highest mating success during the female’s peak mating activity, but were discriminated against afterwards. Female choice and male–male competition thus converged to generate a mating advantage for heavier males. Our results suggest that females actively seek polyandrous matings, presumably for indirect genetic benefits. Since body mass is the major determinant of male mating success and is at the same time dependent on the degree of sociality and associated hunting mode of the respective male morph, a male’s feeding ecology is likely to influence its reproductive tactic. A combination of benefits from female polyandry and the consequences of different subsistence strategies may thus ultimately explain this unusual mating system.


Polyandry Female choice Male–male competition Mating system Female dominance Cryptoprocta ferox 

Supplementary material

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Table S1Overview of spatial data obtained for nine males (M1-M9) (DOC 58 kb)
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Table S2Numbers of successful terminations of mating depending on the body mass class of the mating male and the aggressor (DOC 29 kb)
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Table S3Model outputs (a) determinants of copulation length (LMM)* (DOC 64 kb)

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Sociobiology/Anthropology, Johann-Friedrich-Blumenbach-Institute of Zoology and AnthropologyGeorg-August-UniversityGöttingenGermany
  2. 2.Behavioral Ecology & Sociobiology Unit, German Primate CenterLeibniz Institute for Primate ResearchGöttingenGermany

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