Dating and mating games
One end result is polygyny—the most common mating strategy in the animal kingdom—in which males compete for access to a harem of breeding females.
Sexual selection tends to favor adaptations that enhance reproductive success, including a large body size to boost success in pre-mating combat between males, and high sperm counts to up the chances of successful fertilization.
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Males providing insufficient gifts get flung off by the female before insemination is complete.
A study of 14 water-strider species found that species in which males had flat stomachs and powerful forelimbs for clutching lovers mated more frequently than species where females were in charge—those with spines protruding from their back ends.
But strict polyandry, where one female guards a group of male mates, is rare.
"The benefit for the female is quite clear, because if you have four husbands and you lay them each a clutch of eggs and they sit on it, you're doing much better than if you have one husband and you lay one clutch of eggs," Clutton-Brock said.