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Intrasexual competition and sexual selection in cooperative mammals


Clutton-Brock, T H; Hodge, S J; Spong, G; Russell, A F; Jordan, N R; Bennett, N C; Sharpe, L L; Manser, M B (2006). Intrasexual competition and sexual selection in cooperative mammals. Nature, 444:1065-1068.

Abstract

In most animals, the sex that invests least in its offspring competes more intensely for access to the opposite sex and shows greater development of secondary sexual characters than the sex that invests most1,2. However, in some mammals where females are the primary care-givers, females compete more frequently or intensely with each other than males3–5. A possible explanation is that, in these species, the resources necessary for successful female reproduction are heavily concentrated and intrasexual competition for breeding opportunities is more intense among females than among males. Intrasexual competition between females is likely to be particularly intense in cooperative breeders where a single female monopolizes reproduction in each group6. Here, we use data from a twelve-year study of wild meerkats (Suricata suricatta), where females show high levels of reproductive skew, to show that females gain greater benefits from acquiring dominant status than males and traits that increase competitive ability exert a stronger influence on their breeding success. Females that acquire dominant status also develop a suite of morphological, physiological and behavioural characteristics that help them to control other group members. Our results show that sex differences in parental investment are not the only mechanism capable of generating sex differences in reproductive competition and emphasize the extent to which competition for breeding opportunities between females can affect the evolution of sex differences and the operation of sexual selection.

In most animals, the sex that invests least in its offspring competes more intensely for access to the opposite sex and shows greater development of secondary sexual characters than the sex that invests most1,2. However, in some mammals where females are the primary care-givers, females compete more frequently or intensely with each other than males3–5. A possible explanation is that, in these species, the resources necessary for successful female reproduction are heavily concentrated and intrasexual competition for breeding opportunities is more intense among females than among males. Intrasexual competition between females is likely to be particularly intense in cooperative breeders where a single female monopolizes reproduction in each group6. Here, we use data from a twelve-year study of wild meerkats (Suricata suricatta), where females show high levels of reproductive skew, to show that females gain greater benefits from acquiring dominant status than males and traits that increase competitive ability exert a stronger influence on their breeding success. Females that acquire dominant status also develop a suite of morphological, physiological and behavioural characteristics that help them to control other group members. Our results show that sex differences in parental investment are not the only mechanism capable of generating sex differences in reproductive competition and emphasize the extent to which competition for breeding opportunities between females can affect the evolution of sex differences and the operation of sexual selection.

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Contributors:Dept of Zoology, University of Cambridge, Mammal Research Institute, University of Pretoria, Department of Animal Ecology, Uppsala University, Department of Animal and Plant Sciences, University of Sheffield, Department of Zoology, University of Stellenbosch, Zoologisches Institut, Universita¨t Zu¨rich
Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies
Dewey Decimal Classification:570 Life sciences; biology
590 Animals (Zoology)
Language:English
Date:December 2006
Deposited On:04 Dec 2013 14:19
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 17:12
Publisher:Nature Publishing Group
ISSN:0028-0836
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1038/nature05386
Permanent URL: https://doi.org/10.5167/uzh-85775

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