The Social Behaviour of Vertebrates II

Type of instruction




Part of degree program


Recommended in

Semesters 1-4

Typically offered in

Autumn/Spring semester

Course description

1. Sexual selection 9. Female choice. Mate choice for indirect benefits.  Main mechanims. Fisher-model: guppies. Good Genes models. Hamilton-Zuk hypothesis, signalling genetic resistance.

2. Sexual selection 10. Evidence for models. Sensory bias hypothesis: the tungara frog. Mate choice copying.

3. Sexual Selection 11. Sperm competition 1.  Copulation, insemination and fertitilization. Gametes, gonads, copulatory organs and sperm competition. Cryptic mate choice.

4. Sexual selection 12. Sperm competition 2. External and internal fertilization.. Fishes: simultaneous common spawning. Life history of sneakers. Sperm competition in amphibians. Lizards: sperm choice.

5. Sexual selection 13. Sperm competition 3. Birds: Sequential ovulation. Last sperm precedence rule. Male perspective. Paternity defence: multiple copulation, mate guarding. Conflicts between the pair-male, extra-pair male and the female.Why do females controll the sperm competition?

6. Sexual selection 14. Sperm competition 4. Birds. Females: direct and indirect benefits from cuckoldries. Costs of extra-pair copulations. The detailed mechanism of sperm competition in a wild bird. The rate of extra-pair paternity among birds.

7. Sexual selection 15. Sperm competition 5. Mammals. Induced ovulation. Primates:mating systems, sperm competition and genitals. Bats: long-term sperm store.

8. Sexual selection 16. Sperm competition 6. Mammals.  Evolution of human infidelity. Why jealousy is as necessary as love and sex. Evolution of penis and breasts. Sexual desire. Females: dual mating strategy.

9. Sexual selection 17. Endurance rivalry: grouse, frogs, seals. Scrambled competition: monk seals, sousliks, polar bears.

10. Sexual selection 18. Sexual coercion. Evolution of the rape. Infanticides.

11. Mating systems 1. Monogamy. Ecological constraints for monogamy. Importance of biparental care:birds. Monogamy and the life-history traits. Life-long monogamy and fidelity. Divorces. Monogamous mammals: gibbons, marmosets.  Canids: Why does monogamy so common? Sleeping lizard, a monogamous reptile.

12. Mating systems 2. Human mating systems: monogamy or polygyny?  Polygyny. Factors determining polygyny.Resource-defenced polygyny (felids, mustelids, etc.); Harems (gorilla, horses, many monkeys and deers).  Prides and clans: promiscuous mating systems (lions and chimpanzees).

13. Mating systems 3. Nomadic herds: rank order. Leks. Traditional mating territories. Evolution of leks: mate choice and  reproductive success. Black grouse, sage grouse, ruff, tropical frogs and walrush. Poliandry. Reversed sex roles. Human polyandry in Tibet.

14. Parental care 1. Parental investment: benefits and costs. Who cares? Parent-offspring conflicts.

15. Parental care 2. Fishes: uniparental care, importance of paternal care. Anurans: the reproductive rate is important. Why is the parental care so rare in reptiles? Birds: biparental care. Begging calls. Which sex deserts? Mammals:maternal care as a norm. Cooperative breeding: helpers. 

  • Michl, G (2003) A Birders’ Guide to the Behaviour of European and North American Birds. Gavia Science.

  • Godin, J-G. (1997) Behavioural Ecology of Teleost Fishes. Oxford UP.

  • Macdonalds, D. (1996) The New Encyclopaedia of Mammals. Oxford UP.