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Copying the Mate Choice of Others? Observations On Female Black Grouse

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It has been suggested that the non-random mating often observed in lekking species is a consequence of either male-male competition or active female mate choice. Here we show that the highly skewed mating distributions observed in a black grouse lek in three years were indeed different from random expectations. We suggest that females copying the mate choice of others enhance this skew. Observations in favour of copying are: females pay multiple visits to the lek during several days; females arrive and move in bands which makes it possible to observe the visits to male territories and matings of other females; in the main lek in the study area, males often mated in sequence indicating that by being visited by many females and by mating the attractiveness of males increased. However, this last effect was only evident in one of the years of the study, and only on the largest lek which had exceptionally many female visits this year. In leks with a smaller number of visiting females, copying, even if present, is difficult to detect without experiments since almost all females tend to copulate with the top-male.

Affiliations: 1: Dept. of Zoology, Uppsala University, Box 561, S-751 22, Uppsala, Sweden; 2: Dept. of Biology, University of Jyväskylä, Ylionpistonkatu 9, SF-40100, Jyväskylä, Finland

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