Our smallest primate relative, the female grey mouse lemur (Microcebus murinus) is extremely promiscuous during their short breeding season (just a few days out of the year).
These ladies are of a similar morphological size to their male counterparts, and so they are not subject to intense intimidation or coercion from them.
However, males are at their most abundant and eager during the female’s narrow window of ovulation, and up to fourteen males can actively solicit a female at the same time.
Curious as to whether female mouse lemurs were subject to convenience polyandry – where females engage in (unwanted) copulations with would-be suitors for the simple reason that they do not want to spend the time or energy trying to avoid them – biologists manipulated the diet of several females in an effort to create two experimental groups: those with high and those with low body conditions.
They speculated that the females with low body condition would be more likely to engage in convenience polyandry due to a lack of energy to fend off the advances of interested males.
Instead, the complete opposite appears to be true.
High-quality females turned out to be the only ones to engage in polyandrous behaviour, suggesting a high energetic cost to such activities.
This indicates that polyandry is an adaptive behaviour that is favoured over monogamy, and that mouse lemur females are in complete control of their sexual activities.
This post is an adapted excerpt from my book “Wild Sex: The Science Behind Mating in the Animal Kingdom“