It takes two to tango: reproductive skew and social correlates of male mating success in a lek-breeding bird

Thomas B. Ryder, Patricia G. Parker, John G. Blake, Bette A. Loiselle


Variance in reproductive success among individuals is a defining characteristic of many social vertebrates. Yet, our understanding of which male attributes contribute to reproductive success is still fragmentary in most cases. Male–male reproductive coalitions, where males jointly display to attract females, are of particular interest to evolutionary biologists because one male appears to forego reproduction to assist the social partner. By examining the relationship between social behaviour and reproductive success, we can elucidate the proximate function of coalitions in the context of mate choice. Here, we use data from a 4-year study of wire-tailed manakins (Pipra filicauda) to provide molecular estimates of reproductive skew and to test the hypothesis that male–male social interactions, in the context of coordinated displays, positively influence a male's reproductive success. More specifically, we quantify male–male social interactions using network metrics and predict that greater connectivity will result in higher relative reproductive success. Our data show that four out of six leks studied had significant reproductive skew, with success apportioned to very few individuals in each lek. Metrics of male social affiliations derived from our network analysis, especially male connectivity, measured as the number of males with whom the focal male has extended interactions, were strong predictors of the number of offspring sired. Thus, network connectivity is associated with male fitness in wire-tailed manakins. This pattern may be the result of shared cues used by both sexes to assess male quality, or the result of strict female choice for coordinated display behaviour.



    • Received February 6, 2009.
    • Accepted March 4, 2009.
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