Current Zoology(formerly Acta Zoologica Sinica),    2011, 57(2): 225 - 236
Title: Assets and tactics in a mating market: Economic models of negotiation offer insights into animal courtship dynamics on the lek
 D e p a r t m e n t   o f   E v o l u t i o n   a n d   E c o l o g y ,   U n i v e r s i t y   o f   C a l i f o r n i a ,   D a v i s ,   C A   9 5 6 1 6 ,   U S A 
Abstract: Economists study negotiation as a series of events—partner choice, information gathering, bargaining, etc.—with each step of the process affecting the outcome of the next, and the optimal decision at each stage depending on the player’s bargaining power. The context in which these negotiations occur—the market—is critical, since players can adjust their behaviors in response to outside offers. Animals similarly are faced with sequential decisions regarding courtship: who to court, how to approach a potential mate, at what level to display, when to give up, etc. Thus economic models of negotiation in a market provide a framework in which we can view not just the outcome of courtship (assortative mating), but also the process, where each sex can use tactics to improve their negotiating outcome, using the assets that they have available. Here we propose to use negotiation as a conceptual framework to explore the factors promoting the tactical adjustments during sequential stages of courtship in lekking species. Our goal is to discuss the utility of negotiation as a heuristic tool, as well as the promise and peril of co-opting game theoretic models from economics to understand animal interactions. We will provide a brief overview of a few areas where we see promise for using negotiation as a framework to understand animal courtship dynamics: choice of a display territory, tactical partner choice for negotiation, approaching a potential partner and courtship haggling [Current Zoology 57 (2): 225–236, 2011].
Keywords: Bargaining, Game theory, Lek, Sexual selection, Signaling, Behavioral syndromes

*Correspondence should be addressed to Gail L. PATRICELLI (

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