Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 68, Issue 10, pp 1603–1609 | Cite as

Interactive effects of male and female age on extra-pair paternity in a socially monogamous seabird

  • Alejandra G. Ramos
  • Schyler O. Nunziata
  • Stacey L. Lance
  • Cristina Rodríguez
  • Brant C. Faircloth
  • Patricia Adair Gowaty
  • Hugh Drummond
Original Paper


Females sometimes obtain older sires for their offspring through extra-pair interactions, but how female age influences paternity is largely unexplored and interactive effects across the age span of both sexes have not been analyzed. To test whether female choice of sire age varies with female age in the blue-footed booby (Sula nebouxii), we examined associations between ages of both partners and the probability of extra-pair paternity (EPP) in 350 broods of parents up to 22 years old in a single breeding season. Extra-pair paternity enables a female to select an alternative sire for her offspring and could function to avoid or achieve particular combinations of parental ages. A male age × female age interaction revealed that in young females (≤4 years), EPP decreased with increasing age of the social partner, whereas in old females (≥8 years), it increased. Moreover, sires of extra-pair (EP) chicks of young females paired to young males were on average 6.33 years older than the females’ social partners. Since female boobies control copulatory access, this pattern could imply that young females choose old sires for their proven genetic quality and that old females avoid very old males because matings with them may risk infertility or genetic defects in offspring. Taking female age into account and observing across the whole age span may be necessary for understanding female age-based mate choice.


Age Female choice Extra-pair paternity Extra-pair sire Infertility Good genes 



Simon C. Griffith, Lynna M. Kiere, Marcela Osorio-Beristain, Diana Pérez-Staples, Oscar Sánchez-Macouzet, and two anonymous reviewers provided helpful comments on the manuscript. We thank numerous volunteers and colleagues who helped in the field and lab, especially Santiago Bautista-López, Jonathan P. Drury, Gabriela López-Carapia, and Janeth Rosas-Morales. The Armada de México, local fishermen, and staff of the Parque Nacional Isla Isabel supplied vital and much appreciated logistical support. This study was financed by the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (PAPIIT, IN206610) and the Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología (104313). This manuscript constitutes a partial fulfillment of the Graduate Program in Biomedical Sciences of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México. AGR wishes to acknowledge the scholarship and financial support provided by the Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología and the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México. This research was partially supported by US Department of Energy under award number DE­FC09­07SR22506 to the University of Georgia Research Foundation.

Ethical standards

We declare that the present study complies with the current laws and ethical standards of animal research in Mexico. The Secretaría de Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales (SEMARNAT) provided the permit (SGPA/DGVS/08333/10) to collect blood samples.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

265_2014_1769_MOESM1_ESM.doc (34 kb)
ESM 1 (DOC 33 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alejandra G. Ramos
    • 1
  • Schyler O. Nunziata
    • 2
    • 3
  • Stacey L. Lance
    • 2
  • Cristina Rodríguez
    • 1
  • Brant C. Faircloth
    • 4
  • Patricia Adair Gowaty
    • 4
    • 5
    • 6
  • Hugh Drummond
    • 1
  1. 1.Departamento de Ecología Evolutiva, Instituto de EcologíaUniversidad Nacional Autónoma de MéxicoMexicoMexico
  2. 2.Savannah River Ecology LaboratoryUniversity of GeorgiaAikenUSA
  3. 3.Department of BiologyUniversity of KentuckyLexingtonUSA
  4. 4.Department of Ecology and Evolutionary BiologyUniversity of California Los AngelesLos AngelesUSA
  5. 5.Institute of the Environment and SustainabilityUniversity of California Los AngelesLos AngelesUSA
  6. 6.Smithsonian Tropical Research InstituteWashingtonUSA

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