Several behavioral studies of large, gregarious, and sexually dimorphic macropods have shown that males form dominance hierarchies and large males have the highest reproductive success. The bridled nailtail wallaby (Onychogalea fraenata) is a smaller and strongly sexually dimorphic macropod, but is also highly solitary and males do not form dominance hierarchies that are maintained temporally or spatially. Genetic studies of paternity have shown that large males are the most reproductively successful and only one-quarter of males sire offspring at any one time. The aim of this study was to investigate the tactics that males adopt to secure access to females at the time of estrus and to investigate whether females can influence which males have access to them. This study was conducted using 2 wild, free-ranging populations of bridled nailtail wallabies. Females in estrus were located and observed, and the total number of males present, the relative weight rank of each male, and interactions between individuals were recorded. Females showed a preference for large males and incited male–male competition when the group of males present was large. Unlike other dimorphic macropods, fights among males were rare and were restricted to males of similar size. Large males gained access to females by guarding and following them closely and threatening other males who attempted to gain access. Smaller males spent less time with females, suggesting that small males may leave multimale groups in an attempt to locate unguarded females. Given the solitary nature of this species and the lack of a stable dominance hierarchy to influence male reproductive success, mate searching and mate guarding may be important male reproductive tactics in this species.
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