Mate finding, Allee effects and selection for sex-biased dispersal

J Anim Ecol. 2014 Nov;83(6):1256-67. doi: 10.1111/1365-2656.12232. Epub 2014 Jun 2.


Although dispersal requires context-dependent decision-making in three distinct stages (emigration, transit, immigration), these decisions are commonly ignored in simple models of dispersal. For sexually reproducing organisms, mate availability is an important factor in dispersal decisions. Difficulty finding mates can lead to an Allee effect where population growth decreases at low densities. Surprisingly, theoretical studies on mate finding and on sex-biased dispersal produce opposing predictions: in the former, one sex is predicted to move less if the other sex evolves to search more, whereas in the latter, mate-finding difficulties can select for less sex bias in dispersal when mate finding occurs after dispersal. Here, we develop a pair of models to examine the joint evolution of dispersal and settlement behaviour. Our first model resolves the apparent contradiction from the mate search and dispersal literatures. Our second model demonstrates that the relationship between mating system and sex-biased dispersal is more complex than a simple contrast between resource defence monogamy and female defence polygyny. Our results highlight that a key factor is the timing of mating relative to dispersal (before, during, or after). We also show that although movement has the potential to alleviate a mate-finding Allee effect, in some cases, it can actually exacerbate the effect.

Keywords: context‐dependent dispersal; mate searching; mating system; movement; philopatry; settlement; sperm competition.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animal Distribution*
  • Animals
  • Female
  • Genetic Fitness*
  • Male
  • Models, Biological
  • Population Density
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Sexual Behavior, Animal*