Journal of Ornithology

, Volume 145, Issue 4, pp 327–333 | Cite as

Cuckoldry and recapture probability of adult males are not related in the socially monogamous coal tit (Parus ater)

  • Verena Dietrich
  • Tim Schmoll
  • Wolfgang Winkel
  • Jörg T. Epplen
  • Thomas Lubjuhn
Original Article


Despite substantial research effort, the benefits of female extra-pair matings in socially monogamous bird species remain elusive. The “good genes” hypothesis assumes that females engage in extra-pair copulations with males of superior genetic quality compared to their respective social mate. Therefore, a negative association between the degree of cuckoldry and male survival is predicted, if genetic quality is phenotypically reflected by high viability. Furthermore, genetic sires of extra-pair offspring (EPO) should survive better than the social fathers they cuckolded. We tested these predictions in a nestbox population of the coal tit (Parus ater), a socially monogamous passerine with low breeding dispersal and high rates of extra-pair paternity (EPP). Based on 257 genotyped first broods of two consecutive years, we found no relationship between the incidence of EPP or the proportion of EPO within a given brood and male or female recapture probabilities. Furthermore, recapture rates did not differ between social and genetic fathers of EPO or males that did or did not appear as extra-pair sires in other broods. Our results were not affected by differential (short-range) breeding dispersal with respect to EPP or by other potentially confounding variables. Hence, they are not in accordance with the “good genes as viability genes” hypothesis.


Adult survival Extra-pair paternity Good genes Multiple mating Parus ater 



We would like to thank Sabrina Bleidissel, Maria Orland, Andrea Petzold, Tanja Meißner and Christiane Wallnisch for their help in the laboratory, Jörg Brün, Thomas Gerken, Volker Janzon, Anja Quellmalz, Darius Stiels, Jorg Welcker and Doris Winkel for assistance in the field, Georg Rüppell for the provision of working facilities, Karin and Herbert Körner for housing and hospitality during field work and finally Bart Kempenaers and an anonymous referee for valuable comments on an earlier draft of the manuscript. This research was supported by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (Lu 572/2–3) and by a scholarship provided by the TU Braunschweig to V.D.


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Copyright information

© Dt. Ornithologen-Gesellschaft e.V.  2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Verena Dietrich
    • 1
  • Tim Schmoll
    • 2
  • Wolfgang Winkel
    • 3
  • Jörg T. Epplen
    • 4
  • Thomas Lubjuhn
    • 2
  1. 1.Zoological InstituteTechnical University of BraunschweigBraunschweigGermany
  2. 2.Institute for Evolutionary Biology and EcologyUniversity of BonnBonnGermany
  3. 3.Institute of Avian Research “Vogelwarte Helgoland”Working Group Population EcologyCremlingen-WeddelGermany
  4. 4.Human GeneticsRuhr-University BochumBochumGermany

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