, Volume 64, Issue 9, pp 1425-1435,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Nest desertion is not predicted by cuckoldry in the Eurasian penduline tit

Abstract

Engagement in extra-pair copulations is an example of the abundant conflicting interests between males and females over reproduction. Potential benefits for females and the risk of cuckoldry for males are expected to have important implications on the evolution of parental care. However, whether parents adjust parental care in response to parentage remains unclear. In Eurasian penduline tits Remiz pendulinus, which are small polygamous songbirds, parental care is carried out either by the male or by the female. In addition, one third of clutches is deserted by both male and female. Desertion takes place during the egg-laying phase. Using genotypes of nine microsatellite loci of 443 offspring and 211 adults, we test whether extra-pair paternity predicts parental care. We expect males to be more likely to desert cuckolded broods, whereas we expect females, if they obtain benefits from having multiple sires, to be more likely to care for broods with multiple paternity. Our results suggest that parental care is not adjusted to parentage on an ecological timescale. Furthermore, we found that male attractiveness does not predict cuckoldry, and we found no evidence for indirect benefits for females (i.e., increased growth rates or heterozygosity of extra-pair offspring). We argue that male Eurasian penduline tits may not be able to assess the risk of cuckoldry; thus, a direct association with parental care is unlikely to evolve. However, timing of desertion (i.e., when to desert during the egg-laying phase) may be influenced by the risk of cuckoldry. Future work applying extensive gene sequencing and quantitative genetics is likely to further our understanding of how selection may influence the association between parentage and parental care.

Communicated by S. Pruett-Jones
The work carried out in relation to the research presented in this article complied with the current laws of the country where it was performed. Permission for fieldwork was provided by the Kiskunság National Park under licenses KNP 577-3/2002, 390-2/2003, 1094/2004, 23864-1-1/2005, 23864-2-3/2006, and 23864-3-2/2007.