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Open Access Research article

The role of sexual preferences in intrasexual female competition

Alicia M Frame

Author affiliations

Department of Biology, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, 27599, USA

Citation and License

BMC Evolutionary Biology 2012, 12:218  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-12-218

Published: 14 November 2012



While search costs have long been understood to affect the evolution of female preference, other costs associated with mating have been the focus of much less attention. Here I consider a novel mate choice cost: female-female intrasexual competition, that is, when females compete with each other for mates. This competition results in cost to female fecundity, such as a reduction in fertility due to decreased direct benefits, sperm limitation, or time and resources spent competing for a mate. I asked if female-female competition affects the evolution of preferences, and further, if the presence of multiple, different, preferences in a population can reduce competitive costs.


Using population genetic models of preference and trait evolution, I found that intrasexual competition leads to direct selection against female preferences, and restricts the parameter space under which preference may evolve. I also examined how multiple, different, preferences affected preference evolution with female intrasexual competition.


Multiple preferences primarily serve to increase competitive costs and decrease the range of parameters under which preferences may evolve.

Sexual selection; Mate choice; Female preference; Competition; Population genetics