The males of many species demonstrate behaviours that are harmful to females. Some, for example, can physically damage females during courting or mating. Daniel Rankin at the University of Zurich in Switzerland and his team now demonstrate that such sexual conflict can lead to a 'tragedy of the commons'.
Their models suggest that the evolution of male harassment of females during mate competition can lead to a downward spiral of fewer surviving females; these females are themselves less likely to survive because they receive even more damaging attention from males. Conversely, if female resistance to damaging behaviour evolves, making harassment too costly for males, this can prevent a species from dying out.
Am. Nat. 177, 780–791 (2011)
(In this week's issue of Nature.)