Reversed sexual conflict in a promiscuous antelope

Curr Biol. 2007 Dec 18;17(24):2157-61. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2007.11.026. Epub 2007 Nov 29.


A general tenet of sexual conflict theory is that males have higher optimum mating rates than do females and therefore should be more persistent when it comes to mating. However, in promiscuous species, females might benefit from high mating rates as a result of increased conception probability with favored males, whereas favored males benefit from mating selectively because of sperm depletion. When this results in higher optimum mating rates for females than for males, there is potential for reversed sexual conflicts between persistent females and resistant males. Here I report evidence of such a reversed sexual conflict in a promiscuous antelope, the African topi. Rather than mating randomly, favored males prefer to balance mating investment equally between females as predicted by strategic sperm allocation theory. Females, however, enhance their probability of mating with favored males through aggression toward mating pairs. Supporting the idea that aggressive females thereby harass males to mate at a rate that is suboptimal from the males' perspective, males become increasingly likely to counterattack aggressive females with whom they have already mated disproportionately, and such male counterattacks are associated with refusal to mate with the aggressive females. This study points to reversed sexual conflict as a more significant evolutionary force in promiscuous mammals than previously thought; however, such conflicts probably often go unnoticed because males, in contrast to females, can avoid mating without conspicuous resistance.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antelopes / physiology*
  • Female
  • Fertilization / physiology*
  • Male
  • Sexual Behavior, Animal / physiology*