"We found there's significant flexibility in mating behavior and customs across many species," says study co-author James W. A. Grant, biology professor at Concordia University in a press release. Different species used similar strategies when faced with the same problems in finding a mate.
When there are lots of other guys around, males can get aggressive with each other. But for males of many different species of mammal, insect, fish, crustacean, amphibian and reptile it's not a simple game of fighting off your rivals to get the female of your fancy.
"We tend to think that more males lead to more fighting, but after a point, fighting with every male around gets too tiring and risky because of the increased chances of injury. More importantly, having their potential mate stolen away by a more attentive suitor," said lead author Laura K. Weir of Simon Fraser University in the press release from Concordia.
"Males may forgo displays of conspicuous courtship and attempt to gain some reproductive success in other ways," said co-author biology professor Jeffrey Hutchings of Dalhousie University.
In other words, if there are a lot of other males around, the males of some species use stealth to outwit their competitors. They prove to be lovers, not fighters. While the brutes are slugging it out, the suaver males whisk away the females.
But if there aren't many ladies around, males often try to guard the female they are with to prevent other guys from getting a chance at love.
"Males guard females until they are ready to mate in order to ensure some degree of reproductive success by preventing sperm competition from subsequent males," said Grant.
But watch out lady animals, that hero might turn out to be a zero, if other females show up.
"However, if females are abundant and encounters are frequent, males may abandon females who are not receptive to find one who is ready to mate," said Grant.
You know what... some of those situations and strategies don't sound too different from what a biologist could observe on the human dating scene.
IMAGE 1: Lion courtship behavior at Louisville Zoo. (Wikimedia Commons)
IMAGE 2: Red deer compete for a mate. (Wikimedia Commons)
IMAGE 3: Mandarin fish mating. (Wikimedia Commons)