Manipulating Lek Size and Composition Using Decoys: An Experimental Investigation of Lek Evolution Models

  • Jiguet F
  • Bretagnolle V
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Four theoretical models have been proposed to account for the origin and maintenance of leks: hotspot, female preference, hotshot, and black hole models. Each has been validated in particular cases, and most are not mutually exclusive; therefore, it has been difficult to contrast and separate them, empirically and experimentally. By using decoys to mimic natural leks in the little bustard, artificial leks attracted wild birds. Then, by manipulating artificial lek size and structure (sex ratio, male phenotype), the study of responses of wild males and females allowed us to test specific predictions derived from the four classical models of lek evolution. The hotspot model was not supported because female decoys did not attract wild males. Conversely, hotshot males do exist in this species (attracting both wild females and males), as does a female preference for a particular lek size (four males). Finally, males aggressive toward decoys attracted fewer females, consistent with one of the mechanisms by which the black hole model may work. Therefore, three models of lek evolution were partly or fully supported by our experimental results: hotshot, female preference, and black hole models. We suggest that these models actually fit within each other, ensuring the evolution, functioning, and long-term maintenance of leks.

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  • Frédéric Jiguet

  • Vincent Bretagnolle

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