Encyclopedia of Animal Cognition and Behavior

Living Edition
| Editors: Jennifer Vonk, Todd Shackelford

Polygyny Threshold Model

  • Gaute GrønstølEmail author
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-47829-6_460-1



The polygyny threshold model is a framework proposed to describe optimal female mate choice in resource defense polygyny systems. The polygyny threshold is defined as the increase in breeding resources required to offset costs of sharing a territory with another female.


Until the 1960s, polygyny was largely considered a result of an excess of female to male breeders (Searcy and Yasukawa 1989). This explanation was found inadequate as it became clear that it is fairly common to see territorial males remaining unmated despite courtship efforts, while neighboring males mate polygynously. In the mid-1960s, the polygyny threshold model (hereafter the PTM) was proposed as an adaptive explanation to this phenomenon (Orians 1969; Verner 1964; Verner and Willson 1966).

Since its inception, the PTM has been applied on a wide range of organisms that exhibit social resource defense polygamy, including birds, mammals, fishes, reptiles,...

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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Natural History MuseumUniversity of OsloOsloNorway

Section editors and affiliations

  • David Hanbury
    • 1
  1. 1.Averett UniversityDanvilleUSA