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Explicit experimental evidence for the role of mate guarding in minimizing loss of paternity in the Seychelles warbler

Jan. Komdeur , Femmie. Kraaijeveld-Smit , Ken. Kraaijeveld , Pim. Edelaar


Extra–pair copulations (EPCs) (copulations outside the pair bond) resulting in extra–pair fertilizations (EPFs) are widespread in birds. To increase reproductive success, males should not only seek EPCs, but also prevent their females from having EPFs. Male Seychelles warblers (Acrocephalus sechellensis) follow their partner closely during the period when these females are most receptive (fertile period). The Seychelles warbler is the first species to offer explicit experimental evidence that mate guarding functions as paternity guarding: in territories where free–living males were induced to stop mate guarding during the pair female's fertile period, the rates of intrusions by other males and successful EPCs (male mounting female) were significantly higher than those observed in the control group and in the absence of mate guarding the frequency of successful EPCs increased significantly with local male density. Male warblers do not assure their paternity through frequent copulations to devalue any sperm from other males: males do not copulate with their partners immediately following a successful EPC obtained by their partners, the frequency of successful within–pair copulations does not increase with the frequency of successful EPCs and females initiate all successful copulations and are capable of resisting copulation attempts.

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