An Inconvenient Truth: The Unconsidered Benefits of Convenience Polyandry

Rebecca A. Boulton, Marlene Zuk, David M. Shuker

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Polyandry, or multiple mating by females with different males, is commonplace. One explanation is that females engage in convenience polyandry, mating multiple times to reduce the costs of sexual harassment. Although the logic underlying convenience polyandry is clear, and harassment often seems to influence mating outcomes, it has not been subjected to as thorough theoretical or empirical attention as other explanations for polyandry. We re-examine here convenience polyandry in the light of new studies demonstrating previously unconsidered benefits of polyandry. We suggest that true convenience polyandry is likely to be a fleeting phenomenon, even though it can profoundly shape mating-system evolution via potential feedback loops between resistance to males and the costs and benefits of mating.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)904-915
Number of pages12
JournalTrends in Ecology and Evolution
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Georgina Glaser, Ginny Greenway, Jessie Tanner, Justa Heinen-Kay, Lewis Dean, Narmin Ghalichi, Rachel Olzer, and Rebecca Ehrlich for their valuable input. We are also very grateful for the efforts of six anonymous reviewers who helped us to clarify our thinking and the manuscript. We also thank Locke Rowe for images. R.A.B. is supported by a grant from the International Community Fund (awarded by the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Elsevier Ltd

Copyright 2019 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • convenience polyandry
  • mating systems
  • sexual conflict
  • sexual harassment


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