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7 - Sexual selection, behaviour and sexually transmitted diseases

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 August 2009

Charles L. Nunn
Affiliation:
Department of Biology, University of California, Davis, CA, USA
Sonia M. Altizer
Affiliation:
Department of Environmental Studies Emory, University Atlanta, GA, USA
Peter M. Kappeler
Affiliation:
Deutsches Primatenzentrum, Göttingen, Germany
Carel P. van Schaik
Affiliation:
Duke University, North Carolina
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Summary

INTRODUCTION

Factors that alter the contact structure of individuals within populations will influence the spread of parasites that are transmitted by direct contact (Anderson & May, 1991; Blower & McLean, 1991). Few cases illustrate this fundamental principle of epidemiology better than sexual selection and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Sexual selection involves variation in mating success mediated by male–male competition or female choice. By changing the structure of mating contacts within a population, sexual selection influences the spread of sexually transmitted infections. In particular, those individuals with the greatest mating success are at highest risk of contracting STDs, and will also contribute disproportionately to STD spread and persistence (Graves & Duvall, 1995; Thrall et al., 2000). Moreover, promiscuity associated with sperm competition is predicted to increase both the spread and virulence of STDs (Thrall et al., 1997). Therefore STDs may represent a substantial cost of sexual selection and non-monogamous mating behaviour (Thrall et al., 2000).

Sexually transmitted diseases have been virtually ignored in studies of animal mating systems (Smith & Dobson, 1992; Lockhart et al., 1996), but it is now possible to link epidemiological theory on STDs to patterns of infection in wild populations. In this chapter, we explore the consequences of sexual selection, for the spread of STDs in primates. We also examine behavioural defences to avoid infection, specifically addressing interactions between parasite fitness and host reproductive success.

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Sexual Selection in Primates
New and Comparative Perspectives
, pp. 117 - 130
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2004

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