Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Genetic polymorphism for alternative mating behaviour in lekking male ruff Philomachus pugnax


ALTERNATIVE male mating tactics are widespread among animal taxa1–3, but there are few well documented examples of genetic polymorphisms for them4–6. The dimorphism in male courtship behaviour between independent and satellite ruffs, Philomachm pugnax7,8 (a lekking sandpiper), has often been cited as a potential example but this has been questioned9,10 because of the lack of data11 and the widespread phenotypic plasticity in the development or expression of alternative tactics in other species1–3,9,12–14. By rearing ruffs in captivity, we now show that differential morph development is genetically controlled and consistent with a single-locus, two-allele autosomal genetic polymorphism. Several potentially relevant environmental factors do not appear to alter behavioural development.

Your institute does not have access to this article

Relevant articles

Open Access articles citing this article.

Access options

Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.


  1. Dunbar, R. I. M. in Perspectives in Ethology Vol. 5 (eds Bateson, P. P. G. & Klopfer, P. H.) 385–431 (Plenum, New York, 1982).

    Google Scholar 

  2. Alcock, J. in Sexual Selection and Reproductive Competition in Insects (eds Blum, M. S. & Blum, N. A.) 381–402 (Academic, New York, 1979).

    Google Scholar 

  3. Arak, A. in Producers and Scroungers (ed. Barnard, C. J.) 154–194 (Croom Helm, London, 1984).

    Book  Google Scholar 

  4. Zimmerer, E. J. & Kallman, K. D. Evolution 43, 1298–1307 (1989).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Ryan, M. J., Pease, C. M. & Morris, M. R. Am. Nat. 139, 21–31 (1992).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Erbelding-Denk, C. et al. Behav. Genet. 24, 95–101 (1994).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Hogan-Warburg, A. J. Ardea 54, 109–229 (1966).

    Google Scholar 

  8. van Rhijn, J. G. Behaviour 47, 153–229 (1973).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Caro, T. M. & Bateson, P. Anim. Behav. 34, 1483–1499 (1986).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Höglund, J. & Lundberg, A. Auk 106, 336–338 (1989).

    Google Scholar 

  11. van Rhijn, J. G. The Ruff (Poyser, London, 1991).

    Google Scholar 

  12. Dawkins, R. in Sociobiology: Beyond Nature/Nuture? (eds Barlow, G. W. & Silverberg, J.) 331–367 (Westview, Boulder, CO, 1980).

    Google Scholar 

  13. West-Eberhardt, M. J. A. Rev. Ecol. Syst. 20, 249–278 (1989).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Lively, C. M. Am. Nat. 128, 561–572 (1986).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. van Rhijn, J. G. Ibis 125, 482–498 (1983).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Shepard, J. M. Living Bird 14, 87–111 (1985).

    Google Scholar 

  17. Hill, W. L. Behav. Ecol. Sociobiol. 29, 367–372 (1991).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Lank, D. B. & Smith, C. M. Behavl Ecol. Sociobiol. 29, 137–145 (1987).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Höglund, J., Montgomerie, R. & Widemo, F. Behavl Ecol. Sociobiol. 32, 31–39 (1993).

    Google Scholar 

  20. Slatkin, M. Am. Nat. 114, 384–398 (1989).

    MathSciNet  Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Austad, S. N. Am. Zool. 24, 309–320 (1984).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Maynard Smith, J. Evolution and the Theory of Games (Cambridge Univ. Press, 1982).

    Book  Google Scholar 

  23. Cade, W. Science 212, 563–564 (1981).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Emlen, D.L. Proc. R. Soc. Lond. B256, 131–136 (1994).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Moran, N. A. Am. Nat. 139, 971–989 (1992).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Ricklefs, R. E. in Avian Biology Vol. 7 (eds Farner, D. S., King, J. R. & Parkes, K. C.) 1–83 (Academic, New York, 1983).

    Book  Google Scholar 

  27. Hanotte, O., Burke, T., Armour, J. A. L. & Jeffreys, A. J. Genomics 9, 587–597 (1991).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  28. Bruford, M. W., Hanotte, O., Brookfield, J. F. Y. & Burke, T. in Molecular Genetic Analysis of Populations: A Practical Approach (ed. Hoelzel, A. R.) 225–269 (IRL, Oxford, 1992).

    Google Scholar 

  29. Dixon, A., Ross, D., O'Malley, S. C. L. & Burke, T. Nature 371, 698–700 (1994).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  30. Wong, Z., Wilson, V., Patel, I., Povey, S. & Jeffreys, A. J. Ann. hum. Genet. 51, 269–288.

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Lank, D., Smith, C., Hanotte, O. et al. Genetic polymorphism for alternative mating behaviour in lekking male ruff Philomachus pugnax. Nature 378, 59–62 (1995).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:

Further reading


By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing