Biological Theory

, Volume 14, Issue 2, pp 103–111 | Cite as

Mating Markets: A Naturally Selected Sex Allocation Theory of Sexual Selection

  • Marion BluteEmail author
Original Article


This article utilizes three premises. (1) There are commonly ecologically oriented, naturally selected specialized differences in frequency and/or quality as well as sexually selected differences between the sexes. (2) Sex in the sense of coming together and going apart (syngamy and meiosis in haploids) or going apart and coming together (meiosis and syngamy in diploids) is trade in these naturally selected differences, i.e., there is a mating market in sexual species. (3) While such trade is beneficial to the population as a whole, sexual competition and selection is conflict over the profits of that trade and can be detrimental to the population as a whole. These premises yield a naturally selected sex allocation theory of the possible directions and forms of sexual selection, i.e., one that includes costs as well as frequencies. This can explain conventional sex roles, the sex-role reversed, inter- as well as intrasexual selection, and passive as well as active choice. Any of these alternatives may be over mates, over gametes, or both. A hypothetical example based on density dependence relative to resources is provided, one that suggests that centrioles may be a cytoplasmic resource in males in multicellular animals, and which are the target of active choice and the mechanism of manipulation in passive female choice. As a whole, the approach yields a truly general theory of sexual selection, provides an alternative to the mechanism for Fisher’s principle, and gives a theoretical explanation for Mayr’s biological species definition.


Centrioles Density dependence Fisher’s principle Mating markets Sex allocation and sexual selection Species definition 



As always, the author would like to acknowledge Gail Greer as well as two referees.


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Copyright information

© Konrad Lorenz Institute for Evolution and Cognition Research 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada

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