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An experimental increase in female mass during the fertile phase leads to higher levels of extra-pair paternity in pied flycatchers Ficedula hypoleuca

  • Plaza, Mireia1
  • Cantarero, Alejandro2
  • Moreno, Juan1
  • 1 Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales (CSIC). Dpto. Ecología Evolutiva, C/ José Gutiérrez Abascal 2, Madrid, 28006, Spain , Madrid (Spain)
  • 2 University of Turku, Turku, 20014, Finland , Turku (Finland)
Published Article
Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology
Springer Berlin Heidelberg
Publication Date
Nov 27, 2019
DOI: 10.1007/s00265-019-2771-z
Springer Nature


AbstractFemale mass in most altricial birds reaches its maximum during breeding at egg laying, which coincides temporally with the fertile phase when extra-pair paternity (EPP) is determined. Higher mass at laying may have two different effects on EPP intensity. On the one hand, it would lead to increased wing loading (body mass/wing area), which may impair flight efficiency and thereby reduce female’s capacity to resist unwanted extra-pair male approaches (sexual conflict hypothesis). On the other hand, it would enhance female condition, favouring her capacity to evade mate guarding and to search for extra-pair mates (female choice hypothesis). In both cases, higher female mass at laying may lead to enhanced EPP. To test this prediction, we reduced nest building effort by adding a completely constructed nest in an experimental group of female pied flycatchers (Ficedula hypoleuca). Our treatment caused an increase in mass and thereby wing loading and this was translated into a significantly higher EPP in the manipulated group compared with the control group as expected. There was also a significant negative relationship between EPP and laying date and the extent of the white wing patch, an index of female dominance. More body reserves at laying mean not only a higher potential fecundity but a higher level of EPP as well. This interaction had not previously received due attention but should be considered in future studies of avian breeding strategies.Significance statementWhile most research has been focused on determining possible criteria for extra-pair mate choice by females, less effort has been made on establishing if female traits are related to EPP and its intensity. One such trait is mass at laying which attains its highest level for breeding females of altricial birds. Our study indicates that a higher mass during the fertile phase not only has implications for female fecundity and predation risk but also for EPP in the resulting brood as more mass means a higher EPP.

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