Review Lecture: Mammalian Mating Systems

T. H. Clutton-Brock


Male mammals show a diverse array of mating bonds, including obligate monogamy, unimale and group polygyny and promiscuity These are associated with a wide variety of different forms of mate guarding, including the defence of feeding and mating territories, the defence of female groups and the defence of individual receptive females. Female mating bonds include long-term monogamy, serial monogamy, polyandry and promiscuity Both male and female mating behaviour varies widely within species. Variation in male mating behaviour is related to the effect of male assistance in rearing young and to the defensibility of females by males. The latter is, in turn, related to female ranging behaviour and to the size and stability of female groups. Much of the variation in mammalian mating bonds and systems of mate guarding can be attributed to differences in these three variables.

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