Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 62, Issue 11, pp 1761–1767 | Cite as

Is female promiscuity constrained by the presence of her social mate? An experiment with bluethroats Luscinia svecica

  • Arild JohnsenEmail author
  • Henrik Pärn
  • Frode Fossøy
  • Oddmund Kleven
  • Terje Laskemoen
  • Jan T. Lifjeld
Original Paper


Extra-pair paternity is common in birds and much research has focussed on the selective advantage of extra-pair matings for both sexes. In contrast, little attention has been given to the fact that in most species the majority of offspring are sired by the social male. We investigated whether extra-pair matings of female bluethroats (Luscinia svecica) are constrained by the presence of the pair male, by detaining males in cages on their territories for one morning during the peak of female fertility. The proportion of offspring sired by extra-pair males was higher in broods where males had been detained (35%) than in control broods (16%), while the proportion of broods that had at least one extra-pair offspring did not differ significantly between experimental (65%) and control broods (44%). Within the experimental group, levels of extra-pair paternity were not related to the day of experiment in relation to start of egg laying, but males caught early in the morning lost more paternity than males caught later on. Our results show that pair males exert constraints on the frequency of extra-pair paternity by being present during the period of peak fertility, which could be a direct effect of their mate guarding effort and/or due to an advantage in sperm competition for pair males.


Sperm competition Mate guarding Sexual conflict Extra-pair paternity Male detention 



We thank Roger Dahl and Geir Rudolfsen for field assistance and Richard Wagner and an anonymous reviewer for constructive comments on the manuscript. The study was financed by a grant to AJ from the Norwegian Research Council (grant no. 159288).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Arild Johnsen
    • 1
    Email author
  • Henrik Pärn
    • 2
  • Frode Fossøy
    • 1
    • 2
  • Oddmund Kleven
    • 1
  • Terje Laskemoen
    • 1
  • Jan T. Lifjeld
    • 1
  1. 1.National Centre for Biosystematics, Natural History MuseumUniversity of OsloBlindernOsloNorway
  2. 2.Department of BiologyNorwegian University of Science and TechnologyTrondheimNorway

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