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Female Reproductive Potential and Its Apparent Evaluation by Male Mammals

Joel Berger
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/1381518 347-358 First published online: 25 May 1989


Among mammals it has been widely supposed that females are more discriminatory than males in mate selection. Little attention has focused on a related issue, whether males evaluate potential female mates. Data on bison (Bison bison) and possibly other mammals suggest that males discriminate among females based on female reproductive potential. Evidence is presented that older (≥6 year) males not only outnumber younger males early in the rut when females of higher fecundity are available for breeding, but that older males actively select and copulate with females that have greater probabilities of bearing offspring in the subsequent season. Although the proximate mechanism of mate selection has yet to be identified, the data may explain some previously misunderstood anomalies in male breeding behavior and they demonstrate previously undescribed, subtle discriminations made by male mammals.

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