Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 33, Issue 4, pp 261–268 | Cite as

Certainty of paternity covaries with paternal care in birds

  • A. P. Møller
  • T. R. Birkhead


Male investment in parental care has been hypothesized to be affected or not to be affected by their certainty of paternity, depending on the particular assumptions of theoretical models. We used data on paternal care and extra-pair paternity from 52 bird species to determine whether male parental care was related to certainity of paternity. Paternal care was measured as the relative male contribution to nest building, courtship feeding, incubation, and feeding of nestlings, respectively. Males of avian taxa did not provide less parental care during nest building, courtship feeding and incubation if the frequency of extra-pair paternity was high. However, male participation in feeding of offspring was significantly negatively related to the frequency of extra-pair paternity. This was also the case when the effects of potentially confounding variables such as developmental mode of offspring (which may result in males being freed from parental duties), extent of polygyny (which may result in less paternal care), and the frequency of multiple clutches during one breeding season (which may increase the probability of finding fertile females during the nestling period) were controlled statistically. These results suggest that the extent of paternal care has been affected by certainty of paternity, and that sex roles during the energetically most expensive parts of reproduction have been shaped by sperm competition.

Key words

Birds Extra-pair paternity Paternal care Sperm competition 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. P. Møller
    • 1
  • T. R. Birkhead
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of ZoologyUppsala UniversityUppsalaSweden
  2. 2.Department of Animal and Plant SciencesThe UniversitySheffieldUK

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