Associate Professor, PhD Sigrunn Eliassen
Evolution of Mating Systems
My current research focuses on the evolution of mating systems and cooperative behaviours.
I am particularly interested in how mating strategies change the incentives of males and females to
invest in parental care and cooperation within a group.
Cooperation often produces benefits that are greater than solitary action,
but from an evolutionary perspective it is hard to explain why individuals accept a cost to themselves
to benefit others.
Using evolutionary modelling, we study how mating strategies, in particular extra-pair paternity,
alter the costs and benefits of cooperative investment. Females in most species mate with more than a
single male during a breeding cycle. Even in species that pair monogamously offspring commonly have
different fathers. For males there is a clear benefit of mating with several females as they can sire
offspring without having to pay the costs of care, but the benefit to females is more of a puzzle.
In an ongoing project I collaborate with Christian Jørgensen and Marc Mangel to develop theoretical
models of common ecological mechanisms that illustrate how extra-pair mating may trigger male-male
cooperation in predator defence and sharing of resources.
Foraging ecology and learning
I am also interested in how animals may allocate their foraging effort in response to experiences of
local resource conditions, as environments vary in time and space. The need to acquire information affects
foraging decisions and influences distribution patterns and resource consumption. Foragers need to make apparently
complex decisions on which prey to select, where to forage, and for how long.
Animals gain information by exploring their surroundings, for instance by sampling different prey types or
resource patches. Foragers that are able to learn from experience may track changes in environmental conditions.
Individuals however, pay for information by spending energy and time, forgoing opportunities to gain resources
elsewhere. The value of learning therefore depends on the benefits an animal obtains from using information and
the costs of collecting it.
My Main Page|
University of Bergen, Department of Biology |
(+47) 55 58 46 22|
Department of Biology|
University of Bergen
P.O. Box 7803