The evolution of mating dispersion in insects

Per Olof Wickman, Ronald L. Rutowski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


In insects with non-resource based mating systems, the dispersion of sites where matings occur may vary from highly clumped (leks) to widely dispersed. We review the ecological and behavioral factors that determine the dispersion of matings and emphasize that in many species both males and receptive females gain by behaving in ways that enhance encounter rates with mates. In insects, dispersed low-density populations and short life spans may favor receptive females that actively seek males and move toward sites where males are more likely to occur or be detected. The dispersion of matings in a species then will be a result of an interaction over evolutionary time between ecology and the mate-seeking behavior of males and females, and the resulting effects on the overlap of receptive female home ranges. Our analysis suggest six key variables that may affect the size overlap of female home ranges and thereby be important in explaining variation in mating dispersion in insects. These variables are: (1) the typical dispersal speed of males and receptive females, (2) the extent to which the paths of receptive females converge in the habitat, (3) the maximum distance at which males and females can detect one another, (4) population density, (5) mating frequency, and (6) the intensity of female choice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)463-472
Number of pages10
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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