Get access

Genetic and Social Monogamy – Does It Occur Without Mate Guarding in the Ringed Plover?


Johan Wallander, Department of Zoology, Animal Ecology, Göteborg University, Box 463, SE-405 30 Göteborg, Sweden. E-mail:


Among birds, waders (suborder Charadrii) show a remarkable variation in social mating systems. Their genetic mating systems are, however, less well known, especially in socially monogamous species. Here, we use DNA fingerprinting and behavioral studies to examine genetic parentage and male mate guarding in the ringed plover Charadrius hiaticula, a monogamous wader with biparental care. None of the putative parents was excluded as a genetic parent of the chicks attended (57 young from 21 families). Statistical resampling supported that extra-pair parentage occurs only rarely, if ever, in the ringed plover. We found no evidence for male mate guarding by close following as a paternity assurance strategy. Lack of extra-pair paternity in the ringed plover is therefore probably not a consequence of male mate guarding, but of high costs and/or low benefits from extra-pair copulations for females.