Same-sex sexual behaviour and selection for indiscriminate mating

Nat Ecol Evol. 2021 Jan;5(1):135-141. doi: 10.1038/s41559-020-01331-w. Epub 2020 Nov 9.


The widespread presence of same-sex sexual behaviour (SSB) has long been thought to pose an evolutionary conundrum, as participants in SSB suffer the cost of failing to reproduce after expending the time and energy to find a mate. The potential for SSB to occur as part of an optimal strategy has received less attention, although indiscriminate sexual behaviour may be the ancestral mode of sexual reproduction. Here, we build a simple model of sexual reproduction and create a theoretical framework for the evolution of indiscriminate sexual behaviour. We provide strong support for the hypothesis that SSB can be maintained by selection for indiscriminate sexual behaviour, by showing that indiscriminate mating is the optimal strategy under a wide range of conditions. Further, our model suggests that the conditions that most strongly favour indiscriminate mating were probably present at the origin of sexual behaviour. These findings have implications not only for the evolutionary origins of SSB, but also for the evolution of discriminate sexual behaviour across the animal kingdom.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Reproduction*
  • Sexual Behavior
  • Sexual Behavior, Animal*

Associated data

  • Dryad/10.5061/dryad.gxd2547jg