Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 69, Issue 12, pp 2035–2042 | Cite as

Courtship behavior differs between monogamous and polygamous plovers

  • María Cristina Carmona-Isunza
  • Clemens Küpper
  • M. Alejandro Serrano-Meneses
  • Tamás Székely
Original Article


Courting, accessing, and/or competing for mates are involved in sexual selection by generating differences in mating success. Although courtship behavior should reflect intensity of mating competition and sexual selection, studies that compare courtship behavior across populations/species with different mating systems subject to differing degrees of mating competition are scanty. Here, we compare courtship behavior between two closely related plover species (Charadrius spp.): a polygamous population of snowy plovers and a socially monogamous population of Kentish plovers. Consistently with expectations, both males and females spent more time courting in the polygamous plover than in the monogamous one. In addition, courtship behavior of males relative to females increased over the breeding season in the polygamous plover, whereas it did not change in the monogamous one. Our results therefore suggest that courtship behavior is a fine-tuned and informative indicator of sexual selection in nature.


Sexual selection Courtship behavior Mating behavior Mating systems Monogamy Polygamy Within-season variation 



We thank all fieldwork volunteers and people that have worked and supported the conservation project of snowy plovers at Bahía de Ceuta, especially to M. Cruz-Lopéz, I. Guardado, and O. Castañeda. We also thank the Universidad Autónoma de Sinaloa for logistic support through the program PROTORMAR. The snowy plover project fieldwork permit for Ceuta was provided by SEMARNAT (SGPA/DGVS/03076/13). We thank also the numerous volunteers who collected data for the Kentish plover project in Maio, Cape Verde, especially A. Tavares and E. Inés; we also thank the support of all the Fundação Maio Biodiversidade (FMB) team, DGA (who provided permit to work on Maio) and the Camara Municipal do Maio. Funding for fieldwork in Ceuta was given to MAS-M by CONACyT (Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología, Mexico, Ciencia Básica 2010, número de proyecto 157570); funding for fieldwork in Maio was provided by a DFG Mercator Visiting Professorship awarded to TS. CK was supported by a Marie Curie intraeuropean postdoctoral fellowship. MAS-M was supported by the Posgrado en Ciencias Biológicas of the Universidad Autónoma de Tlaxcala. This study is part of the PhD dissertation of MCC-I, who was funded by CONACyT (scholarship number 216052/311485) and is grateful to H. Drummond for lending field equipment and to S. Ancona and N. dos Remedios for their useful comments on earlier versions of this manuscript. We thank the thorough comments of two anonymous reviewers which improved our manuscript substantially.

Compliance with ethical standards

In this study, we investigated two geographically widespread and non-endangered bird species in their natural habitats. The data collected for this study were based only on observations that did not require any capture or manipulation; data collection consisted in observations of pairs at a distance of 10 to 20 m using a hide or a car, carefully avoiding the disturbance of the normal activities of birds. When using a car, we drove only on marked tracks where cars usually drive in order to avoid additional disturbance of the natural habitat. As part of the annual monitoring, birds were caught using funnel traps during late incubation or after hatching of the clutch. Traps were left on the nest/clutch up to 25 min and were shaded to avoid egg exposure to heat; trapping was avoided at extreme heat. Birds were ringed and manipulated by well-trained people. All aspects of the fieldwork were authorized by the national authorities in Cape Verde (Direcção Geral do Ambiente, DGA) and Mexico (Secretaría de Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales, SEMARNAT).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • María Cristina Carmona-Isunza
    • 1
  • Clemens Küpper
    • 2
    • 3
  • M. Alejandro Serrano-Meneses
    • 4
  • Tamás Székely
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Biology and BiochemistryUniversity of BathBathUK
  2. 2.Department of Animal and Plant SciencesUniversity of SheffieldSheffieldUK
  3. 3.Institute of ZoologyGrazAustria
  4. 4.Laboratorio de Biología Evolutiva, Centro Tlaxcala de Biología de la ConductaUniversidad Autónoma de TlaxcalaTlaxcalaMexico

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