Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 37, Issue 6, pp 419-425

First online:

Extra-pair paternity and male characteristics in the pied flycatcher

  • Osmo RättiAffiliated withDepartment of Biology, University of Jyväskylä
  • , Matti HoviAffiliated withDepartment of Biology, University of Jyväskylä
  • , Arne LundbergAffiliated withDepartment of Zoology, Uppsala University
  • , Håkan TegelströmAffiliated withDepartment of Genetics, Uppsala University
  • , Rauno V AlataloAffiliated withDepartment of Biology, University of Jyväskylä

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The pied flycatcher (Ficedula hypoleuca) is sexually dichromatic with extreme variation in male plumage coloration. The benefit for males of having black plumage is controversial, and few studies have found evidence for a sexual selection benefit of being black rather than brown. However, blacker males may be better able to achieve extra-pair fertilizations (EPFs), which may be an important component of sexual selection. We studied the role of EPFs in sexual selection in the pied flycatcher by establishing a set-up where two males with different back coloration (blacker vs browner) bred simultaneously near each other. DNA fingerprinting analysis revealed that 11% of offspring resulted from EPFs, and that 22% of broods included extra-pair young (EPY) among 36 nests containing 223 nestlings. We found no evidence that browner males suffered more often from EPFs than blacker males. There was no correlation of male or female morphology or age with EPF frequency. However, breeding pairs with low genetic similarity had EPY in their nests significantly more often. Thus we argue that females paired with genetically dissimilar males may try to avoid the effects of extreme outbreeding by seeking extra-pair copulations (EPCs). Alternatively, incompatibility between genetically dissimilar mates may simply expose females to more extra-pair copulations.

Key words

DNA fingerprinting Extra-pair paternity Ficedula hypoleuca Genetic similarity Plumage coloration