Dominance rank, copulatory behavior, and differential reproduction

Q Rev Biol. 1982 Jun;57(2):135-59. doi: 10.1086/412672.


The view that high social rank is associated with high levels of both copulatory behavior and the production of offspring is widespread in the study of animal behavior. In order to demonstrate the validity of this hypothesis it is necessary first to resolve ambiguities in the concept of dominance and to assign ranks by means of valid procedures. Second, copulatory behavior must be properly sampled, measured, and related to rank. Finally, it must be demonstrated that rank and increased copulatory behavior actually lead to increased reproduction. Each step in this process entails conceptual and methodological difficulties. There have been many studies of rank and copulatory behavior, fewer of rank and differential reproduction, and very few of rank, copulatory behavior, and differential reproduction. The consistency of results obtained varies with taxon; results of particular consistency appear in studies of carnivores and ungulates. Both the concept of dominance and the validity of the hypothesis relating it to copulatory behavior and to differential reproduction appear viable for at least some species, although the body of data relating rank to both copulation and differential reproduction remains minimal.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Copulation
  • Dominance-Subordination*
  • Female
  • Male
  • Models, Biological
  • Reproduction*
  • Sexual Behavior, Animal*
  • Social Dominance*
  • Species Specificity