It shows that extended courtship can take place, with a good male being willing to court for longer than a bad male and the female delaying mating. In this way the duration of a male’s courtship effort carries information about his type. By delaying mating, the female is able to make some use of this information to achieve a degree of screening. Because bad males have a greater tendency to quit the courtship game early, as time goes on and the male has not quit it becomes increasingly probable that he is a “good” male.
Scientists have developed a mathematical model of the mating game to help explain why courtship is often protracted.
The study, by researchers at UCL (University College London), University of Warwick and LSE (London School of Economics and Political Science), shows that extended courtship enables a male to signal his suitability to a female and enables the female to screen out the male if he is unsuitable as a mate.
The research uses game theory to analyse how males and females behave strategically towards each other in the mating game.
The mathematical model considers a male and a female in a courtship encounter of unspecified duration, with the game ending when one or other party quits or the female accepts the male as a mate.
The study looks for evolutionarily stable equilibrium behaviours, in which females are doing as well as they can against male behaviour and males are doing as well as they can against female behaviour.