Are there indirect fitness benefits of female extra-pair reproduction? Lifetime reproductive success of within-pair and extra-pair offspring

Rebecca J. Sardell, Peter Arcese, Lukas F. Keller, Jane M. Reid

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Citations (Scopus)


The forces driving extra-pair reproduction by socially monogamous females, and the resulting genetic polyandry, remain unclear. A testable prediction of the hypothesis that extra-pair reproduction partly reflects indirect selection on females is that extra-pair young (EPY) will be fitter than their within-pair young (WPY) maternal half-siblings. This prediction has not been comprehensively tested in a wild population, requiring data on the lifetime reproductive success (LRS) of maternal half-sib EPY and WPY. We used 17 years of genetic parentage data from song sparrows, Melospiza melodia, to compare the LRS of hatched EPY and WPY maternal half-siblings measured as their lifetime number of hatched offspring, recruited offspring, and hatched grandoffspring. EPY hatchlings were not significantly fitter than WPY hatchlings for any of three measures of LRS. Furthermore, opposite to prediction, EPY hatchlings tended to have lower LRS than their maternal half-sibling WPY hatchlings on average. EPY also tended to be less likely to survive to hatch than their maternal half-sibling WPY. Taken together, these results fail to support one key hypothesis explaining the evolution of genetic polyandry by socially monogamous females and suggest there may be weak indirect selection against female extra-pair reproduction in song sparrows.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)779-793
Number of pages15
JournalThe American Naturalist
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2012


  • extra-pair paternity
  • fitness
  • genetic benefits
  • half-sibling
  • indirect selection
  • polyandry

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