Female squirrels are promiscuous depending on how many males are knocking at their door, University of Guelph researchers have revealed.
"Their behaviour is overwhelmingly influenced by opportunity," said graduate student Eryn McFarlane, who, along with integrative biology professor Andrew McAdam and a team of researchers from across Canada, solved a mystery that has baffled biologists for years.
AdvertisementTheir findings appear in the Royal Society Journal Biology Letters.
Female squirrels are less than picky when it comes to mating, often entertaining as many suitors as possible. Such risky female behaviour is puzzling in the mammal world.
Although it makes sense for male squirrels to have as many mates as possible to ensure the most offspring, promiscuity doesn't always make sense for females, said McFarlane.
"Having multiple partners means more energy expended on mating, increased exposure to predators as well as increased potential for the spread of sexually transmitted diseases," she said. "Promiscuity also encourages harassment from male squirrels trying to coerce them into having sex."