The Effect of Familiarity on Mate Choice

  • Sarah A. Cheetham
  • Michael D. Thom
  • Robert J. Beynon
  • Jane L. Hurst


The ability to recognize familiar conspecifics appears to be widespread among vertebrates and influences a variety of behavioural interactions including mate selection. Female choice of males has been shown to vary according to male familiarity, but interestingly in some species this favours familiar males, while in others unfamiliar males are preferred. Preference for unfamiliar partners might result from the attempt to minimise inbreeding costs by avoiding mating with individuals encountered during development, or with those sharing relatedness cues. Conspecifics that are familiar through prior mating experience might be avoided in species that benefit from a promiscuous mating system, again resulting in preference for unfamiliar mates. Conversely, familiar mates may be favoured in monogamous species where formation of a pair bond is important for parental investment, and when familiarity provides an opportunity for females to assess the quality and compatibility of potential mates. Thus different types of familiarity may have differing effects on mate choice, with the direction of preference being determined by other aspects of life history, such as the likelihood of inbreeding, the importance of polyandry, and the role of social dominance and territoriality in reproductive success.


Mate Choice Bank Vole Scent Mark Prairie Vole Previous Mate 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media,LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sarah A. Cheetham
    • 1
  • Michael D. Thom
  • Robert J. Beynon
  • Jane L. Hurst
  1. 1.Mammalian Behaviour and Evolution GroupUniversity of LiverpoolLeahurstUK

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