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Interplay of male traits, male mating strategies and female mate choice in the Asian elephant, Elephas maximus

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Elaborate male traits with no apparent adaptive value may have evolved through female mate discrimination. Tusks are an elaborate male-only trait in the Asian elephant that could potentially influence female mate choice. We examined the effect of male body size, tusk possession and musth status on female mate choice in an Asian elephant population. Large/musth males received positive responses from oestrous females towards courtship significantly more often than did small/non-musth males. Young, tusked non-musth males attempted courtship significantly more often than their tuskless peers, and received more positive responses (though statistically insignificant) than did tuskless males. A positive response did not necessarily translate into mating because of mate-guarding by a dominant male. Female elephants appear to choose mates based primarily on traits such as musth that signal direct fertility benefits through increased sperm received than for traits such as tusks that may signal only indirect fitness benefits.

Affiliations: 1: Centre for Ecological Sciences, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, Karnataka, India

10.1163/1568539X-00003271
/content/journals/10.1163/1568539x-00003271
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2015-05-29
2018-07-21

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