Journal Article The role of bioacoustic signals in koala sexual selection: Insights from seasonal patterns of associations revealed with GPSProximity units

Ellis, William  ,  FitzGibbon, Sean  ,  Pye, Geoff  ,  Whipple, Bill  ,  Barth, Ben  ,  Johnston, Stephen  ,  Seddon, Jenny  ,  Melzer, Alistair  ,  Higgins, Damien  ,  Bercovitch, Fred

10 ( 7 ) 2015-07-08 , Public Library of Science
Despite being a charismatic and well-known species, the social system of the koala (Phascolarctos cinereus - the only extant member of the family Phascolarctidae) is poorly known and much of the koala's sociality and mating behaviors remain un-quantified. We evaluated these using proximity logging-GPS enabled tracking collars on wild koalas and discuss their implications for the mating system of this species. The frequency and duration of malefemale encounters increased during the breeding season, with male-male encounters quite uncommon, suggesting little direct mating competition. By comparison, female-female interactions were very common across both seasons. Body mass of males was not correlated with their interactions with females during the breeding season, although male size is associated with a variety of acoustic parameters indicating individuality. We hypothesise that vocal advertising reduces the likelihood of male-male encounters in the breeding season while increasing the rate of male-female encounters. We suggest that male mating-season bellows function to reduce physical confrontations with other males allowing them to space themselves apart, while, at the same time, attracting females. We conclude that indirect male-male competition, female mate choice, and possibly female competition, mediate sexual selection in koalas.

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