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Conditional monogyny: female quality predicts male faithfulness

Klaas W Welke*, Stefanie M Zimmer and Jutta M Schneider

Author Affiliations

Zoological Institute, University of Hamburg, Martin-Luther-King-Platz 3, 20146, Hamburg, Germany

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Frontiers in Zoology 2012, 9:7  doi:10.1186/1742-9994-9-7

Published: 25 April 2012



Male monogyny in the absence of paternal investment is arguably one of the most puzzling mating systems. Recent evidence suggests that males of monogynous species adjust their life-history and their mating decision to shifting spatial and temporal selection regimes. In the cannibalistic wasp spider Argiope bruennichi males can be either monogynous or mate with a maximum of two females. We studied factors underlying male mating decisions in a natural population over a whole mating season. We documented all matings and categorized the males into single-mated and double-mated monogynous as well as bigynous males.


We found that all categories were continuously present with relatively stable frequencies despite changes in the operational sex ratio. Males were more likely monogynous when copulating with relatively heavy and old females and otherwise bigynous.


Our results imply that males make conditional mating decisions based on the quality of the first female they encounter but do not adjust their mating tactic to the local selection regime.

Monogyny; Polyandry; Mate choice; Alternative reproductive tactics; Sexual cannibalism; Argiope bruennichi