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Extra-pair paternity and intraspecific brood parasitism in the Gentoo Penguin (Pygoscelis papua) on Elephant Island, Antarctica

Abstract

Recent studies have shown that many species of apparently monogamous birds engage in extra-pair copulation (EPC). Penguins have intense shared parental care for their young, and thus have been considered monogamous. The present study aimed to assess the reproductive system of the gentoo penguin (Pygoscelis papua) on Elephant Island, Antarctica, by evaluating extra-pair paternity (EPP) and intraspecific brood parasitism (IBP). Our data revealed high rates of EPC, with approximately 48.75% of chicks originating from EPP, corresponding to 72.5% of nests. IBP was found for ~ 17% of the gentoo penguin nests, a behavior previously recorded only for Magellanic penguins (~ 6%). The reasons for these behaviors are not clear, as increased genetic diversity or sex bias of offspring was not found. Thus, social and ecological aspects could be more important for determining the costs and benefits of EPP. Other genetic and ecological aspects must be investigated in future studies, such as genetic compatibility of the immune system or fluctuations of the EPP rate due to environmental conditions.

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Acknowledgements

We thank the team from the Laboratório de Ornitologia e Animais Marinhos at the Universidade do Vale do Rio dos Sinos for assistance with field work. Financial support for the analysis in this study was provided by the National Council for Research and Development (CNPq; Process no. 482501/2013-8, 306904/2019-5) and FIP-PUC Minas (2016-S2-11080). Financial support for field work was provided by the National Institute of Science and Technology of Antarctic Environmental Research (INCT-APA) (CNPq Process no. 574018/2008-5), and the Carlos Chagas Research Support Foundation of the State of Rio de Janeiro (FAPERJ; process no. E-16/170023/2008). Logistical support was provided by the Brazilian Secretary of the Inter-Ministry on Marine Resources (SECIRM). We thank Erik Wild for his checking and correcting of the English in this paper, as well as Peter Dann, Grant Ballard and anonymous reviewers who all helped improve the manuscript.

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GPMD contributed to the design of the study, sampling, data analysis, and writing of the manuscript text. AS and LGG contributed to the laboratory work and data analysis. MVP, GV, and RCP contributed to the sampling design and field work. All authors contributed to the draft of the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Gisele Pires de Mendonça Dantas.

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This study was approved by the Animal Research Ethics Committee CEUA -PUC Minas (0026-2014), and agrees with the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CAMMLAR) protocol, and was approved by PROANTAR (Antarctic Brazilian Program).

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de Mendonça Dantas, G.P., Gonzaga, L.G., da Silveira, A.S. et al. Extra-pair paternity and intraspecific brood parasitism in the Gentoo Penguin (Pygoscelis papua) on Elephant Island, Antarctica. Polar Biol 43, 851–859 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00300-020-02692-5

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Keywords

  • Pygoscelis papua
  • Microsatellites
  • Behavior
  • Genetic diversity