Mating Strategies

  • Robin I. M. Dunbar
Part of the Studies in Behavioural Adaptation book series (SBA)


A female mammal, once fertilised, gains little by repeated matings. Her interests are best served by concentrating on the business of gestating and rearing the fetus(es). Males, on the other hand, are less constrained by their reproductive biology and can, in principle at least, increase their reproductive output by continuing to mate with as many females as they can. With a gestation period in the order of six months in most primates, there is little that a male can do to help the female in the business of rearing until after the infant is born. Only in respect of the indirect help that a male can confer on a female carrying his offspring is he able to make any contribution at all. The extent to which he can contribute even in this way depends largely on the nature of the species’ ecological strategies. I will consider the male’s contributions to parental care in more detail in the following chapter. Here, I shall concentrate on the prior problem of decisions about mating.


Rhesus Macaque Mating Strategy Dominance Rank Dominant Male Capuchin Monkey 
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Copyright information

© Robin Dunbar 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robin I. M. Dunbar
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of ZoologyUniversity of LiverpoolUK

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