Much research on reproductive strategies has focused on biologically-based sex differences which are expected to lead to, in general, quite divergent behavior – men invest much more in mating effort (mate-seeking and competitive behavior) and women in parental care. Recent work however highlights the limitations of this approach and assumptions of behavior largely insensitive to context.
Through my dissertation research I tested biologically-based models models against contextually-dependent ones (mating market models) for predicting reproductive strategies across 8 Makushi communities that vary in sex ratio. What I found is that male investment in mating effort is sensitive to community sex ratio, in line with mating market predictions. These findings question expectations that reproductive behavior will primarily vary by sex differences in optimal mating rates. Instead, we suggest a more fruitful focus is one that looks to individual pay-offs to a particular strategy in a particular context (Schacht & Borgerhoff Mulder 2015).