The contribution of extra-pair paternity to the variation in lifetime and age-specific male reproductive success in a socially monogamous species

Sara Raj Pant, Maaike A. Versteegh, Martijn Hammers, Terry Burke, Hannah L. Dugdale, David S. Richardson, Jan Komdeur

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In socially monogamous species, extra-pair paternity (EPP) is predicted to increase variance in male reproductive success (RS) beyond that resulting from genetic monogamy, thus, increasing the “opportunity for selection” (maximum strength of selection that can act on traits). This prediction is challenging to investigate in wild populations because lifetime reproduction data are often incomplete. Moreover, age-specific variances in reproduction have been rarely quantified. We analyzed 21 years of near-complete social and genetic reproduction data from an insular population of Seychelles warblers (Acrocephalus sechellensis). We quantified EPP's contribution to lifetime and age-specific opportunities for selection in males. We compared the variance in male genetic RS versus social (“apparent”) RS (RS ap) to assess if EPP increased the opportunity for selection over that resulting from genetic monogamy. Despite not causing a statistically significant excess (19%) of the former over the latter, EPP contributed substantially (27%) to the variance in lifetime RS, similarly to within-pair paternity (WPP, 39%) and to the positive WPP-EPP covariance (34%). Partitioning the opportunity for selection into age-specific (co)variance components, showed that EPP also provided a substantial contribution at most ages, varying with age. Therefore, despite possibly not playing the main role in shaping sexual selection in Seychelles warblers, EPP provided a substantial contribution to the lifetime and age-specific opportunity for selection, which can influence evolutionary processes in age-structured populations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)915-930
Number of pages16
Issue number5
Early online date24 Mar 2022
Publication statusPublished - May 2022


  • Age-specific reproduction
  • Seychelles warbler
  • extra-pair paternity
  • lifetime reproductive success
  • opportunity for selection
  • sexual selection

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