Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 70, Issue 12, pp 2039–2052 | Cite as

Multimodal flight display of a neotropical songbird predicts social pairing but not extrapair mating success

  • Lilian T. ManicaEmail author
  • Jeff A. Graves
  • Jeffrey Podos
  • Regina H. Macedo
Original Article


Models of sexual selection predict that socially monogamous females may gain direct or indirect (genetic) benefits by mating with multiple males. We addressed current hypotheses by investigating how, in the socially monogamous blue-black grassquit (Volatinia jacarina), male courtship and territory quality varied with social and extrapair paternity. Males of this tropical granivorous passerine exhibit multimodal displays integrating motor (leap displays) and acoustic components. Across 3 years, we found that extrapair paternity ranged from 8 to 34 % of all nestlings and from 11 to 47 % of all broods. Extrapair and socially paired male territories had similar seed densities. Females preferred to pair socially with males executing higher leaps, but no other male display characteristic associated with paternity loss and extrapair fertilizations. Extrapair and social mates did not differ in genetic similarity to female partners nor in inbreeding levels. Additionally, inbreeding and body condition of extrapair and within-pair nestlings did not differ. Thus, not only did we reject the direct benefits hypothesis for extrapair copulations, but our results also did not support the additive and nonadditive genetic benefits hypotheses. Instead, we found support for benefits through selection of potentially “good fathers,” specifically for females that chose to pair socially with males exhibiting enhanced performance in their displays.

Significance statement

Multiple mating by females is intriguing because resulting advantages seem improbable. However, access to resources, genetic compatibility with the sexual partner and good gene transmission to the offspring are possible explanations for this behavior in several animals, including socially monogamous species. We investigated potential benefits in a socially monogamous neotropical bird, the blue-black grassquit. Males attract females using a sexual display of repeated leap flights synchronized with a song. We found that when selecting social mates, females favor higher-leaping males, an attribute associated with enhanced body condition that could indicate the capacity for better parenting and also be inherited by the offspring. Yet, when choosing extrapair males, females did not appear to base choices on leap parameters, vocal attributes, and genetic compatibility. These results do not suggest benefits for multiple mating by females, but show that selection of males in good physical condition can influence choice for social mates.


Good genes Multimodal signals Polyandry Sexual selection Social monogamy 



We thank all assistants that contributed to both fieldwork and video data processing, Tanya Sneddon for assistance in the Molecular Ecology Laboratory at University of St Andrews and two anonymous reviewers for suggestions that improved the manuscript.

Compliance with ethical standards


This study was funded by the Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior – CAPES (AEX 4837/14-2), the Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico – CNPq (471945/2013-7, GM/GD 142255/2012-2), the National Science Foundation (IOS-1028964), the Student Research Grant of the Animal Behavior Society, the University of St Andrews (UMGM7014), and the Universidade de Brasília. Logistic support was provided by Universidade de Brasília, University of Massachusetts - Amherst, and University of St. Andrews.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All methods used in this study are in accordance with ethical standards and Brazilian laws and were approved by the relevant authorities: Instituto Brasileiro do Meio Ambiente e dos Recursos Naturais Renováveis – IBAMA (license no. 17765-1) and by the Centro Nacional de Pesquisas para Conservação das Aves Silvestres – CEMAVE (license no. 1301).

Informed consent

This article does not contain any studies with human participants performed by any of the authors.

Supplementary material

265_2016_2208_MOESM1_ESM.m4v (8.7 mb)
Online Resource 1 This video shows a male blue-black grassquit executing leap displays. (M4 V 8860 kb)
265_2016_2208_MOESM2_ESM.m4v (15.8 mb)
Online Resource 2 This video shows two examples of male blue-black grassquit leap displays: a higher and a lower leap display. (M4 V 16229 kb)
265_2016_2208_MOESM3_ESM.docx (22 kb)
Online Resource 3 (DOCX 22 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lilian T. Manica
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Jeff A. Graves
    • 3
  • Jeffrey Podos
    • 4
  • Regina H. Macedo
    • 5
  1. 1.Departamento de Ecologia–IB, Pós-Graduação em EcologiaUniversidade de BrasíliaBrasíliaBrazil
  2. 2.Departamento de ZoologiaUniversidade Federal do ParanáCuritibaBrazil
  3. 3.School of Biology, Harold Mitchell BuildingUniversity of St. AndrewsSt. Andrews, FifeUK
  4. 4.Department of BiologyUniversity of MassachusettsAmherstUSA
  5. 5.Departamento de Zoologia–IBUniversidade de BrasíliaBrasíliaBrazil

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