CIE Seminar Series – 2021: Environmental determinants of mating aggregations in “harem” polygynous insects

SPEAKER: Dr Melissa Griffin, Department of Conservation, Rotoiti/Nelson Lakes, NZ.

DATE & TIME: Friday, 2nd July 2021 @ 12noon.

LOCATION: Seminar to be streamed via Zoom. Click HERE to connect (Meeting ID: 811 8882 0010, Password: 58838124).

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In the context of animal behaviour a harem is generally recognised as a mating system where a single dominant male defends and mates with a group of females. Examples of harem polygyny are best known from mammals, e.g. red deer. A small number of insects though, have been described as being harem polygynous but information on insects which display this mating system is scarce.

In this thesis, I begin by reviewing the mating systems of these “harem polygynous” insects. Four main behavioural characteristics were identified that, apart from individual males mating with multiple females in a group, are often associated with harem polygyny: exclusive maternal care, monandry, male-biased sexual dimorphism and temporal continuity of harem composition where the dominant male guards females from intruding males over a prolonged period.

In the subsequent chapters I examine the ecological drivers of harem formation in insects, with particular focus on the role that population sex ratio and density, resource availability and habitat play in determining formation and composition of mating aggregations.

I utilised two insect study systems described as “harem” polygynous; the five spined bark beetle, Ips grandicollis and the Auckland tree weta, Hemideina thoracica.


I moved back to New Zealand 18 months ago and now work for the Department of Conservation. I am the Senior Ranger for Biodiversity at the Rotoiti/Nelson Lakes district office. We are based in the little village of St Arnaud in the northern South Island.

As the senior ranger I manage the budget and work plan for the biodiversity team. I provide technical support for the team and report on the week that we do. My role is incredibly varied one day I can be in meetings about working more sustainably, the next collecting kiwi acoustic recorders from the field and the next analysing the trapping data to ensure we are working efficiently and effectively.

For more information click HERE.

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Thanking you in advance!

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