Extra-pair parentage and personality in a cooperatively breeding bird

Hannah A Edwards, Hannah L Dugdale, David S Richardson, Jan Komdeur, Terry Burke

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Why so much variation in extra-pair parentage occurs within and among populations remains unclear. Often the fitness costs and benefits of extra-pair parentage are hypothesised to explain its occurrence; therefore, linking extra-pair parentage with traits such as personality (behavioural traits that can be heritable and affect reproductive behaviour) may help our understanding. Here, we investigate whether reproductive outcomes and success are associated with exploratory behaviour in a natural population of cooperatively breeding Seychelles warblers (Acrocephalus sechellensis) on Cousin Island. Exploratory behaviour correlates positively with traits such as risk-taking behaviour and activity in other wild bird species and might promote extra-pair mating by increasing the rate at which potential extra-pair partners are encountered. We therefore predicted that fast-exploring individuals would have more extra-pair offspring. There is also a potential trade-off between pursuing extra-pair parentage and mate guarding in males. We therefore also predicted that fast-exploring males would be more likely to pursue extra-pair parentage and that this would increase the propensity of their mate to gain extra-pair parentage. We found that neither the total number of offspring nor the number of extra-pair offspring were associated with a male’s or female’s exploratory behaviour. However, there was a small but significant propensity for females to have extra-pair fertilisations in pairs that were behaviourally disassortative. Overall, we conclude that, due to the small effect size, the association between exploratory behaviour and extra-pair paternity is unlikely to be biologically relevant.
Original languageEnglish
Article number37
JournalBehavioral Ecology and Sociobiology
Early online date15 Feb 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2018


  • Seychelles warbler
  • Personality
  • Exploration
  • Extra-pair paternity
  • Reproductive behaviour

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