The role of bioacoustic signals in koala sexual selection : insights from seasonal patterns of associations revealed with GPS-proximity units
journal contributionposted on 04.08.2022, 04:26 authored by William EllisWilliam Ellis, S FitzGibbon, G Pye, B Whipple, B Barth, S Johnston, J Seddon, Alistair MelzerAlistair Melzer, D Higgins, F Bercovitch
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 male-female 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.