Increased extra-pair paternity in broods of aging males and enhanced recruitment of extra-pair young in a migratory bird


Despite keen interest in extra-pair mating in birds, its adaptive significance remains unresolved. Here, we use a multi-year dataset to test whether traits of a female's social mate influence her propensity to produce extra-pair offspring in a population of house wrens, and whether producing extra-pair young has consequences for a female's fitness through effects on offspring survival. Females were most likely to produce extra-pair offspring when paired with old males and when paired with males on poor-quality territories, although this latter effect was marginally nonsignificant. Among offspring, the cutaneous immunity of within-pair young decreased as the age of their sires increased, but cutaneous immunity of extra-pair young was not affected by the age of their extra-pair sires or by the age of the males rearing them. Extra-pair offspring were more likely than within-pair offspring to return as breeding adults to the local population, with extra-pair sons being more likely to return as a breeder for multiple years. Our findings support the hypothesis that females produce extra-pair offspring to enhance their inclusive fitness beyond what they are capable of given the male with which they are socially paired.

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