Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 57, Issue 1, pp 91–100 | Cite as

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

  • Manfred EberleEmail author
  • Peter M. Kappeler
Original Article


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.


Female choice Sexual conflict Promiscuity Mixed paternity Microcebus 



We thank Berthe Rakotosamimanana (Département de Paléontologie et d’Anthropologie Biologique de l’Université d’Antananarivo), Olga Ramilijaona and Daniel Rakotondravony (Département de Biologie Animale, Université d’Antananarivo), Lucien Rakotozafy (Parc Botanique et Zoologique Tsimbazaza Antananarivo), the Commission Tripartite and the CAFF of the Direction des Eaux et Forêts, the CFPF Morondava, and Jörg U. Ganzhorn, Hans Zischler and Andreas Hapke for their authorization or support of this study. Thanks go to Tiana Andrianjanahary, Karoline Franz and Wiebke Plästerer for assistance in the field, and to Dietmar Zinner, Patty Gowaty, Lee C. Drickamer and an anonymous reviewer for their helpful comments on an earlier version of the manuscript. This article is part of a doctoral study by M. Eberle in the Faculty of Biology, University of Hamburg, with financial support from the Deutsches Primatenzentrum (DPZ) and the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, Ka 1082/5-1, 2).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Abteilung SoziobiologieDeutsches PrimatenzentrumGöttingenGermany
  2. 2.Institut für Zoologie & Zoologisches MuseumUniversität HamburgHamburgGermany

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