Annual Report 2001 - Cornell University
003 Selected Faculty Research

22 Perpetuating Mating Strategies

Kelly R. Zamudio, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, and University of California-Santa Cruz colleague determined why nature allows all mating strategies to persist in some animal systems. Just as in the rock-paper-scissors children's game, each of the three genetic strategies has an advantage over one competitor and a vulnerability to another. Therefore, all of them have an equal opportunity to succeed. Studying side-blotched lizards (Uta stansburiana), the researchers described the three sexual strategies: (1) the aggressive male with lots of females in a big territory, (2) the loyal male who guards a single mate in a small territory, (3) the landless loner who sneaks into other males' territories and mates with their females. Although some species of birds and fishes have similar mating strategies, this reptilian system is almost unique in the animal kingdom. Evolutionary biologists know of few similar systems in mammals.

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