The 20-year study, which is reported in The American Naturalist, found that offspring conceived outside sparrows' social pairs go on to have lower reproductive success than within-pair offspring. The findings throw a monkey wrench into theories about why ostensibly monogamous animals might be inclined to cheat.
Most bird species display some form of monogamy. Bonded pairs stay together for a breeding season, a few seasons, or sometimes for life. But beneath this veneer of monogamy, there's plenty of hanky-panky in most species. Why promiscuity exists in monogamous species is "one of the biggest remaining enigmas in evolutionary ecology," said Jane Reid, a research fellow at the University of Aberdeen and one of the study's authors.
One hypothesis for this is that when a female strays she makes it count by mating with a male of higher genetic quality than her social mate. The result is higher-quality offspring that have a better chance of carrying a female's genes into future generations. This study, however, turns that explanation on its head.
The researchers studied a population of song sparrows in Mandarte Island in British Columbia, Canada. Each year starting in 1993 the team drew small blood samples from nearly every hatchling in the population and used genetic markers to see who fathered each bird. They found that 28 percent of all chicks were fathered by males other than a female's socially paired mate. Thirty-three percent of broods had chicks that were fathered by multiple males.
The researchers tracked both within- and extra-pair offspring throughout their lives. They found that extra-pair offspring had 40 percent fewer offspring of their own, and 30 percent fewer grandoffspring, compared to within-pair offspring.
"These results are remarkable because they are completely opposite to expectation," Reid said. "They show that females suffer a cost of promiscuity because they produce worse offspring through extra pair mating. Rather than answering the question of why females should mate promiscuously, [these results] have blown the question wide open."
Rebecca J. Sardell, Peter Arcese, Lukas F. Keller and Jane M. Reid, "Are There Indirect Fitness Benefits of Female Extra-Pair Reproduction? Lifetime Reproductive Success of Within-Pair and Extra-Pair Offspring." The American Naturalist 179:6 (June 2012).
Since its inception in 1867, The American Naturalist has maintained its position as one of the world's most renowned, peer-reviewed publications in ecology, evolution, and population and integrative biology research. While addressing topics in community and ecosystem dynamics, evolution of sex and mating systems, organismal adaptation, and genetic aspects of evolution, AmNat emphasizes sophisticated methodologies and innovative theoretical syntheses--all in an effort to advance the knowledge of organic evolution and other broad biological principles.
Kevin Stacey | EurekAlert!
The Great Unknown: Risk-Taking Behavior in Adolescents
19.01.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung
A sudden drop in outdoor temperature increases the risk of respiratory infections
11.01.2017 | University of Gothenburg
An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...
Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...
Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.
While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...
Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales
Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...
Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.
As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...
19.01.2017 | Event News
10.01.2017 | Event News
09.01.2017 | Event News
20.01.2017 | Awards Funding
20.01.2017 | Materials Sciences
20.01.2017 | Life Sciences