Promiscuity, paternity and personality in the great tit

Samantha C. Patrick, Joanne R. Chapman, Hannah L. Dugdale, John L. Quinn, Ben C. Sheldon


Understanding causes of variation in promiscuity within populations remain a major challenge. While most studies have focused on quantifying fitness costs and benefits of promiscuous behaviour, an alternative possibility—that variation in promiscuity within populations is maintained because of linkage with other traits—has received little attention. Here, we examine whether promiscuity in male and female great tits (Parus major)—quantified as extra-pair paternity (EPP) within and between nests—is associated with variation in a well-documented personality trait: exploration behaviour in a novel environment. Exploration behaviour has been shown to correlate with activity levels, risk-taking and boldness, and these are behaviours that may plausibly influence EPP. Exploration behaviour correlated positively with paternity gained outside the social pair among males in our population, but there was also a negative correlation with paternity in the social nest. Hence, while variation in male personality predicted the relative importance of paternity gain within and outside the pair bond, total paternity gained was unrelated to exploration behaviour. We found evidence that males paired with bold females were more likely to sire extra-pair young. Our data thus demonstrate a link between personality and promiscuity, with no net effects on reproductive success, suggesting personality-dependent mating tactics, in contrast with traditional adaptive explanations for promiscuity.

  • Received August 31, 2011.
  • Accepted November 8, 2011.
View Full Text