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Size matters: the (negative) allometry of copulatory duration in mammals

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The amount of time taken to copulate varies enormously among mammals. Because copulation likely exposes animals to an increased risk of predation, and uses time and energy that could be spent on foraging, smaller mammals (which are vulnerable to more predators and have a shorter time-to-starvation than larger mammals) should spend less time copulating than do larger mammals. Furthermore, if extended copulation reflects competition among males, then the duration of mating (after correction for body size) should be greater in mammals in which females mate with more than one male. We tested these predictions using comparative data from 113 mammalian species in 85 genera, 40 families, and 14 orders, while controlling for the effect of phylogeny. We found: (1) the relationship between duration of copulation and body size to be negative, not positive; (2) no relationship with inferred multiple mating by females (based upon relative testes mass). We suggest that small mammals may find the sustained maneuvering and body positioning of copulation easier than do large mammals. This hypothesis is supported by an apparently isometric relationship between duration of copulation and ratio of power to mass. © 2006 The Linnean Society of London, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2006, 87, 185–193.

Keywords: body mass; copulation; metabolic rate; polyandry-testes mass; predation

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Anthropology, University of California, Davis, CA 95616, USA

Publication date: 2006-02-01

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