Journal of Ornithology

, Volume 149, Issue 4, pp 651–654 | Cite as

Genetic monogamy in the Common Crossbill (Loxia curvirostra)

  • Oddmund KlevenEmail author
  • Bjørn-Aksel Bjerke
  • Jan T. Lifjeld
Short Note


Extrapair paternity seems to be common in socially monogamous passerines, but the genetic mating system of most species is currently unknown. Here, we report the first study of paternity in the socially monogamous Common Crossbill (Loxia curvirostra). We found no evidence of extrapair paternity among 96 offspring in 34 examined broods. An upper 95% confidence limit of 3.1% suggests that extrapair fertilizations were truly infrequent in our study population. Common Crossbills thus seem to represent an exception to the rule of extrapair mating among socially monogamous passerine bird species. A potentially important selective pressure preventing promiscuity in Common Crossbills is the harsh environmental conditions experienced during breeding at wintertime, which may increase the importance of paternal care and limit the time available for seeking extrapair copulations.


Extrapair paternity Genetic monogamy Loxia curvirostra Microsatellites Sperm competition 



The authors are grateful to Johnny Steen for assistance with the fieldwork. This study was supported by a grant from the Research Council of Norway (Project no. 170853/V40) and licenses to collect the birds were issued by the Norwegian Directorate for Nature Management (permits no. 94/2641 and 2006/9231).


  1. Arnold KE, Owens IPF (2002) Extra-pair paternity and egg dumping in birds: life history, parental care and the risk of retaliation. Proc R Soc B 269:1263–1269PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Cramp S, Perrins CM (1994) Handbook of the birds of Europe, the Middle East and North Africa: the birds of the western Palearctic. In: The birds of the western Palearctic, vol 8: crows to finches. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  3. Ellegren H (2000) Microsatellite mutations in the germline: implications for evolutionary inference. Trends Genet 16:551–558PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Foerster K, Delhey K, Johnsen A, Lifjeld JT, Kempenaers B (2003) Females increase offspring heterozygosity and fitness through extra-pair matings. Nature 425:714–717PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Fossøy F, Johnsen A, Lifjeld JT (2008) Multiple genetic benefits of female promiscuity in a socially monogamous passerine. Evolution 62:145–156PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Gowaty PA (1996) Battles of the sexes and origins of monogamy. In: Black JM (ed) Partnerships in birds: the study of monogamy. Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp 21–52Google Scholar
  7. Griffith SC, Owens IPF, Thuman KA (2002) Extra pair paternity in birds: a review of interspecific variation and adaptive function. Mol Ecol 11:2195–2212PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Johnsen A, Lifjeld JT (2003) Ecological constraints on extra-pair paternity in the bluethroat. Oecologia 136:476–483PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Kalinowski ST, Taper ML, Marshall TC (2007) Revising how the computer program CERVUS accommodates genotyping error increases success in paternity assignment. Mol Ecol 16:1099–1106PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Petrie M, Kempenaers B (1998) Extra-pair paternity in birds: explaining variation between species and populations. Trends Ecol Evol 13:52–58CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Piertney SB, Marquiss M, Summers R (1998) Characterization of tetranucleotide microsatellite markers in the Scottish crossbill (Loxia scotica). Mol Ecol 7:1261–1263PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Rohlf FJ, Sokal RR (1981) Statistical tables, 2nd edn. Freeman, San FranciscoGoogle Scholar
  13. Stapleton MK, Kleven O, Lifjeld JT, Robertson RJ (2007) Female tree swallows (Tachycineta bicolor) increase offspring heterozygosity through extrapair mating. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 161:1725–1733CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Wink M, Dyrcz A (1999) Mating systems in birds: a review of molecular studies. Acta Ornithol 34:91–109Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Dt. Ornithologen-Gesellschaft e.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Oddmund Kleven
    • 1
    Email author
  • Bjørn-Aksel Bjerke
    • 1
  • Jan T. Lifjeld
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Zoology, Natural History MuseumUniversity of OsloOsloNorway

Personalised recommendations