Birds of Indian Subcontinent

Extrapair Paternity in the Swamp Sparrow, Melospiza georgiana: Male Access or Female Preference?

Publication Type:Journal Article
Year of Publication:2008
Authors:Olsen, BJ, Greenberg, R, Fleischer, RC, Walters, JR
Journal:Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology
Date Published:2008
ISBN Number:03405443
Keywords:Corvidae, Corvus, Corvus corone, Emberizidae, Melospiza, Melospiza georgiana
Abstract:Over the past two decades, the combination of molecular and field methods has revealed considerable variation in the level of extrapair fertilizations among socially monogamous birds. Models predicting extrapair young range in scale from a single population to multiple Orders, and there is no single, unifying theory for these reproductive tactics. We investigated proximate explanations of extrapair fertilizations in two subspecies of the swamp sparrow, Melospiza georgiana georgiana and Melospiza georgiana nigrescens, across a range of social and environmental conditions. The presence of extrapair young was best predicted by the size of two male plumage badges (one correlated with parental care and one with territorial aggression) relative to the badge size of their immediate neighbors, the interaction of these two measures, mean territory size, and the maximum size of the aggression badge among neighbors. The size of the male's parental care badge (relative to neighbors) was negatively correlated with the probability of lost paternity. The relative size of the aggression badge was positively correlated with the presence of extrapair young when the parental care badge was small and negatively correlated when the badge was large. Controlling for these crown measures, males with larger territories were less likely to suffer losses in paternity. There was no effect of breeding density, breeding synchrony, their interaction, subspecies, or weather during the fertile period on the presence of extrapair young. These results suggest that female preference for males that provide more parental care (or preference for genes that convey this trait) plays a dominant role in extrapair interactions among swamp sparrows. Models based on female assessments of relative mate quality offer a promising explanation of patterns in extrapair fertilizations among bird species.
Short Title:Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology
Scratchpads developed and conceived by (alphabetical): Ed Baker, Katherine Bouton Alice Heaton Dimitris Koureas, Laurence Livermore, Dave Roberts, Simon Rycroft, Ben Scott, Vince Smith