Polyandry and alternative mating tactics

Bryan D. Neff, Erik Svensson

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Many species in the animal kingdom are characterized by alternative mating tactics (AMTs) within a sex. In males, such tactics include mate guarding versus sneaking behaviours, or territorial versus female mimicry. Although AMTs can occur in either sex, they have been most commonly described in males. This sex bias may, in part, reflect the increased opportunity for sexual selection that typically exists in males, which can result in a higher probability that AMTs evolve in that sex. Consequently, females and polyandry can play a pivotal role in governing the reproductive success associated with male AMTs and in the evolutionary dynamics of the tactics. In this review, we discuss polyandry and the evolution of AMTs. First, we define AMTs and review game theoretical and quantitative genetic approaches used to model their evolution. Second, we review several examples of AMTs, highlighting the roles that genes and environment play in phenotype expression and development of the tactics, as well as empirical approaches to differentiating among the mechanisms. Third, ecological and genetic constraints to the evolution of AMTs are discussed. Fourth, we speculate on why female AMTs are less reported on in the literature than male tactics. Fifth, we examine the effects of AMTs on breeding outcomes and female fitness, and as a source, and possibly also a consequence, of sexual conflict. We conclude by suggesting a new model for the evolution of AMTs that incorporates both environmental and genetic effects, and discuss some future avenues of research.
Original languageEnglish
Article number20120045
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1613
Publication statusPublished - 2013

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Biological Sciences


  • tactic
  • strategy
  • mate choice
  • polymorphism
  • sexual selection
  • disruptive selection


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