London, Jan 26 (IBNS) Social networks can be used to describe the sexual interactions in animal populations and reveal which individuals are directly competing in the 'mating game', according to new Oxford University research.
These ´sexual networks´ can unlock how sexual selection operates in animal societies where females often mate with multiple males. The network-based approach could also help to study the spread of sexually-transmitted diseases.
A report of the research appears in a specially-themed issue of Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B.
"For centuries naturalists believed that most organisms played a very simple mating game in which a subset of males and females in the population would form monogamous reproductive pairs," said Dr Tom Pizzari of Oxford University´s Department of Zoology who led the research with Oxford colleague Grant McDonald.
"Darwin identified sexual selection, the selection of this successful subset, as the agent responsible for the evolution of a bewildering diversity of extravagant traits utilised in competition over reproductive opportunities."