Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 59, Issue 1, pp 115–123 | Cite as

Tactics, effectiveness and avoidance of mate guarding in the blue-footed booby (Sula nebouxii)

  • Diana Pérez-StaplesEmail author
  • Hugh Drummond
Original Article


We examined the dynamics and avoidance of mate guarding, by males and females, in the blue-footed booby, in which the two social mates are usually simultaneously present on the territory but each of them is unmonitored by the other for one-quarter of its time. Both sexes were promiscuous and liable to switch mates. Cuckolded individuals did not increase their overall presence on the territory, but in response to the extra-pair (EP) courtships of their mates, both sexes doubled their rate of intra-pair (IP) courtship and sometimes showed aggression. The male or female's presence depressed the social mate's EP activity, but intra-pair courtship had no such effect, tending even to propitiate that EP activity. Similarly, when females responded to their social mates' EP courtship with approach or aggression, disruption of EP activity was short-lived. Promiscuous females modified their diurnal pattern of attendance, as if attempting to sidestep monitoring by their mates, but cuckolded males matched the modification. Both sexes tended to perform their EP activities at a distance when their mates were present, possibly to evade monitoring or disruption by their mates. Male and female boobies cannot monitor their mates continuously, they do little to facultatively adjust their presence on territory to the risk of infidelity, and their immediate responses to overt infidelity have only the briefest impact; but the information they acquire while monitoring their mates may be critical to constraining their mates' infidelity and also to calibrating their own reproductive investment.


Mate guarding Sula nebouxii Extra-pair activity 



We thank the Mexican Navy for transportation and logistical support and the fishermen of San Blas and Boca de Camichín for their generous support and friendship. The Secretaría de Desarrollo Urbano y Ecología gave permission to work on Isla Isabel. We are very grateful to: B. Ayala, E. Carrillo, J. Contreras, R. Hernández, L. Lomas, A. López, M. López, A. Mancera, J. Meraz, J. Morales, C. Rodríguez, I. Salvador, O. Salvatore, “el Tepo”, C. Wiley and G. Woolrich, for help with field work. This research was financed by a Kathleen S. Anderson Award and an E. Alexander Bergstrom Memorial Award given to D. P.-S. and a CONACyT Grant (4722-N9407) to H. D. M. Osorio-Beristain, C. Macias, J. Osorno, R. Macias, F. Ornelas and C. Cordero provided helpful comments. This article is based on D. P.-S.'s MSc thesis at the Instituto de Ecología, UNAM


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Instituto de EcologíaUniversidad Nacional Autónoma de MéxicoMéxicoMéxico
  2. 2.Instituto de Ecología A.C.XalapaVer. México

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