Current Zoology(formerly Acta Zoologica Sinica),    2012, 58(3): 493 - 509
Title: The role of male contest competition over mates in speciation
Authors: Anna QVARNSTRÖM, Niclas VALLIN, Andreas RUDH
 A n i m a l   E c o l o g y /   D e p a r t m e n t   o f   E c o l o g y   a n d   G e n e t i c s ,   E v o l u t i o n a r y   B i o l o g y   C e n t r e ,   U p p s a l a   U n i v e r s i t y ,   S w e d e n 
Abstract: Research on the role of sexual selection in the speciation process largely focuses on the diversifying role of mate choice. In particular, much attention has been drawn to the fact that population divergence in mate choice and in the male traits subject to choice directly can lead to assortative mating. However, male contest competition over mates also constitutes an important mechanism of sexual selection. We review recent empirical studies and argue that sexual selection through male contest competition can affect speciation in ways other than mate choice. For example, biases in aggression towards similar competitors can lead to disruptive and negative frequency-dependent selection on the traits used in contest competition in a similar way as competition for other types of limited resources. Moreover, male contest abilities often trade-off against other abilities such as parasite resistance, protection against predators and general stress tolerance. Populations experiencing different ecological conditions should therefore quickly diverge non-randomly in a number of traits including male contest abilities. In resource based breeding systems, a feedback loop between competitive ability and habitat use may lead to further population divergence. We discuss how population divergence in traits used in male contest competition can lead to the build up of reproductive isolation through a number of different pathways. Our main conclusion is that the role of male contest competition in speciation remains largely scientifically unexplored [Current Zoology 58 (3): 490–506, 2012].
Keywords: Male-male competition, Sexual selection, Speciation, Resource based breeding systems, Contest competition, Population divergence, Reproductive isolation

*Correspondence should be addressed to Anna QVARNSTRÖM (

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