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The fertilization success of an insemination is at risk when a female has the possibility to copulate with multiple males, generating sperm competition and sexual conflict over remating. Female propensity to remate is often reduced after copulation, and a staggering diversity of highly derived male traits that discourage female promiscuity have been investigated. However, it is difficult to separate the effect of such specialized traits and insemination products from the more basic effect that the act of mounting per se may have on female remating. Here, we use a novel approach that separates the influence of mounting from that of insemination on female remating in the promiscuous feral fowl. Mounting alone caused a transient but drastic reduction in female propensity to remate, and-crucially-the number of sperm that a female obtained from a new male. Therefore, like other taxa, female fowl show a reduction in promiscuity after copulation, but this is entirely due to mounting alone. This effect of mounting, independent of insemination and fertilization, indicates that even copulations that deliver little or no semen, a puzzling behavior common in many species including the fowl, may play a crucial role in sperm competition.

Original publication




Journal article


Curr Biol

Publication Date





1222 - 1227


Animals, Chickens, Competitive Behavior, Female, Linear Models, Male, Sexual Behavior, Animal, Spermatozoa