The rules of flirting in animals are based on geometry
Published in Scientific Reports, a study conducted by researchers at University of Milan analysed the dynamics of “leks”, the mating arenas of many animal species.
The study involved researchers in physics of complex systems and ethologists at the University of Milan, confirming that in many animal species the spatial distribution of individuals in leks plays a fundamental role. For some time researchers have been trying to understand how this competition works, a behaviour that is widespread across animal species and that aggregates numerous high-ranking and low-ranking individuals.
The study found that the position of each individual in these arenas follows a specific spatial distribution, according to a pattern having geometric properties which can be applied to different species and plays a functional role in the mechanism of competition.
There is a reduced number of subordinate males around high-ranking males, competing directly with them. Specifically, in a pyramidal hierarchy, every lek is dominated by a few high-ranking males which are in an advantageous position in terms of opportunities for access to a large number of females, and benefit from the tendency of subordinate males to aggregate around high-ranking males.
The study involved Professor Fabio Giavazzi, from the Department of Medical Biotechnology and Translational Medicine, Professor Nicola Saino, from the Department of Environmental Science and Policy, and Professor Alberto Vailati, from “Aldo Pontremoli” Physics Department.