Male reproductive suppression: not a social affair

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    In the animal kingdom there are countless strategies via which males optimize their reproductive success when faced with male–male competition. These male strategies typically fall into two main categories: pre- and post-copulatory competition. Within these 2 categories, a set of behaviors, referred to as reproductive suppression, is known to cause inhibition of reproductive physiology and/or reproductive behavior in an otherwise fertile individual. What becomes evident when considering examples of reproductive suppression is that these strategies conventionally encompass reproductive interference strategies that occur between members of a hierarchical social group. However, mechanisms aimed at impairing a competitor’s reproductive output are also present in non-social animals. Yet, current thinking emphasizes the importance of sociality as the primary driving force of reproductive suppression. Therefore, the question arises as to whether there is an actual difference between reproductive suppression strategies in social animals and equivalent pre-copulatory competition strategies in non-social animals. In this perspective paper we explore a broad taxonomic range of species whose individuals do not repeatedly interact with the same individuals in networks and yet, depress the fitness of rivals. Examples like alteration of male reproductive physiology, female mimicry, rival spermatophore destruction, and cementing the rival’s genital region in non-social animals, highlight that male pre-copulatory reproductive suppression and male pre-copulatory competition overlap. Finally, we highlight that a distinction between male reproductive interference in animals with and without a social hierarchy might obscure important similarities and does not help to elucidate why different proximate mechanisms evolved. We therefore emphasize that male reproductive suppression need not be restricted to social animals.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)573-579
    Number of pages7
    JournalCurrent Zoology
    Issue number5
    Early online date13 Aug 2016
    Publication statusPublished - Oct 2017


    • indirect sperm transfer
    • male pre-copulatory competition
    • male reproductive suppression
    • offensive strategies
    • reproductive strategies


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