Sex in the morning or in the evening? Females adjust daily mating patterns to the intensity of sexual harassment.
Løvlie H., Pizzari T.
Selection on males to mate at a higher rate than females often results in male harassment of females and counteracting female responses. When the reproductive value of copulation changes over time, these mating strategies are expected to be time dependent. Here, we demonstrate that variation in the intensity of male harassment leads to drastic changes in female daily mating patterns. In feral populations of fowl Gallus gallus domesticus, male harassment is intense, particularly in the evening when inseminations are most likely to result in fertilization. We experimentally manipulated the intensity of male harassment through similar-sized groups of different sex ratios. Male mating propensity was always higher than females', particularly in male-biased groups and in the evening, when males were closer to and more likely to approach females. Females counteracted male harassment by escalating resistance to mating and--crucially--by shifting their daily mating pattern: in strongly female-biased groups with relaxed sexual harassment, females solicited sex in the evening, while in male-biased groups, they solicited sex in the morning, thus avoiding harassment in the evening. Together, these results indicate that intersexual conflict may occur not only over mating rates but also over when in the day to copulate.