Polygyny in the great reed warbler, Acrocephalus arundinaceus: a possible case of deception
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- Catchpole, C., Leisler, B. & Winkler, H. Behav Ecol Sociobiol (1985) 16: 285. doi:10.1007/BF00310992
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Polygyny was studied for 1 year in a great reed warbler population breeding in southern Germany. Data on various parameters of male and territory characteristics were collected and subjected to multivariate statistical analysis in order to assess their relative importance in female choice. Differences in territory characteristics appeared to be more important (Tab. 1), but there was a strong correlation between male and territory characteristics (Fig. 2, 3). Although the evolutionary advantages of polygyny to males are obvious (Fig. 5), those to females are far from clear. Models based upon the polygyny threshold and sexy son hypotheses predict that females should gain evolutionary advantage in either the short or long-term. Our data did not confirm such predictions, and secondary females showed greatly reduced breeding success (Fig. 4). If females were able to assess the status of mated males, they should instead select unmated males. Great reed warblers are a migrant species with a short breeding cycle in which the male plays relatively little part. They defend large territories in reed beds where visibility is reduced. These factors may permit males to practice a form of deception, by moving and attracting a second female who has little chance to assess that he is already mated.