Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 37, Issue 3, pp 179–188 | Cite as

Extra-pair paternity and the opportunity for sexual selection in a socially monogamous bird (Dendroica petechia)

  • Stephen M. Yezerinac
  • Patrick J. Weatherhead
  • Peter T. Boag


We used multi-locus DNA fingerprinting to characterise the genetic mating system of the socially monogamous yellow warbler (Dendroica petechia). Over 2 years there were no instances of brood parasitism, but 59% of families (n = 90) contained extrapair sired young and 37% of offspring (n = 355) were of extra-pair paternity. Most hypotheses for extra-pair mating in monogamous species assume a paternity benefit to extra-pair sires, and focus on the benefit(s) to females. However, the assumption of male benefit has been little tested. Among yellow warblers, known extra-pair sires were just as likely to be cuckolded as any male in the population, and there was at least one reciprocal exchange of extra-pair paternity. Nevertheless, among known extra-pair sires, the paternity gains from extra-pair paternity were, on average, greater than the losses in their own families. These results show there is a paternity benefit to certain males. However, the benefit is not absolute but relative and therefore more difficult to measure. The results also suggest that patterns of extra-pair fertilisation are not determined by female choice alone. Most confirmed extra-pair mates were territorial neighbours, but some resided as far as three territories apart, and greater spatial separation was implied in other cases. Thus, the opportunity for extra-pair mating is great. We estimate that as a result of extra-pair fertilisations, variance in male mating success is increased somewhere between 3-fold and 15-fold over that which would result from within-pair reproduction alone. These findings affirm the potential importance of extra-pair reproduction for sexual selection in monogamous species and they support earlier suggestions that extra-territorial forays by male yellow warblers are for the purpose of extra-pair mating.

Key words

DNA fingerprinting Extra-pair fertilisation Mating systems 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stephen M. Yezerinac
    • 1
  • Patrick J. Weatherhead
    • 1
  • Peter T. Boag
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of BiologyCarleton UniversityOttawa, OntarioCanada
  2. 2.Department of BiologyQueen's UniversityKingstonCanada

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