Stephen Pruett-Jones (University of Chicago)

Animal Mating Systems: What We See and What We Don't

Watch the talk (running time approx. 50 min.)

Birds illustrate the diversity of mating systems in animals. Social mating systems describe social interactions between males and females by addressing the question "Who is living with whom for the purposes of reproduction?" Reproductive mating systems describe the patterns of copulation and actual parentage by addressing the question "Who is having offspring with whom?" In some cases, reproductive patterns reflect social interactions: the individuals living socially with each other also reproduce with each other. In many other cases, however, the patterns of reproduction do not reflect the patterns of social interaction: individuals often have offspring with individuals that they do not live socially with. In birds, the vast majority of species are socially monogamous (living socially with just one individual of the opposite sex) but are reproductively promiscuous. The type of social and reproductive mating system that a given species illustrates is a complex interaction between the reproductive interests of males and females and the ecology of the species. In general, males attempt to mate with as many females as possible, whereas females attempt to mate with the best quality males and/or the males that provide them with the most resources. I will illustrate these issues by focusing on my research on fairy-wrens, a group of birds in Australia.

Stephen Pruett-Jones is an associate professor in the department of ecology and evolution at the University of Chicago. His research focuses on evolutionary biology and behavioral ecology, specifically the evolution of animal mating systems. He is also interested in animal communication and population biology. He conducts fieldwork on dragonflies in Michigan during the summer months and on birds in Australia each autumn.

Dr. Pruett-Jones received his B.S. degree at University of California, Davis in 1976 and his Ph.D. at University of California, Berkeley in 1985.

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