- Age-specific variances and covariances in reproductive success shape the total variance in lifetime reproductive success (LRS), age-specific opportunities for selection, and population demographic variance and effective size. Age-specific (co)variances in reproductive success achieved through different reproductive routes must therefore be quantified to predict population, phenotypic and evolutionary dynamics in age-structured populations.
- While numerous studies have quantified age-specific variation in mean reproductive success, age-specific variances and covariances in reproductive success, and the contributions of different reproductive routes to these (co)variances, have not been comprehensively quantified in natural populations.
- We applied ‘additive’ and ‘independent’ methods of variance decomposition to complete data describing apparent (social) and realised (genetic) age-specific reproductive success across 11 cohorts of socially monogamous but genetically polygynandrous song sparrows (Melospiza melodia). We thereby quantified age-specific (co)variances in male within-pair and extra-pair reproductive success (WPRS and EPRS) and the contributions of these (co)variances to the total variances in age-specific reproductive success and LRS.
- ‘Additive’ decomposition showed that within-age and among-age (co)variances in WPRS across males aged 2–4 years contributed most to the total variance in LRS. Age-specific (co)variances in EPRS contributed relatively little. However, extra-pair reproduction altered age-specific variances in reproductive success relative to the social mating system, and hence altered the relative contributions of age-specific reproductive success to the total variance in LRS.
- ‘Independent’ decomposition showed that the (co)variances in age-specific WPRS, EPRS and total reproductive success, and the resulting opportunities for selection, varied substantially across males that survived to each age. Furthermore, extra-pair reproduction increased the variance in age-specific reproductive success relative to the social mating system to a degree that increased across successive age classes.
- This comprehensive decomposition of the total variances in age-specific reproductive success and LRS into age-specific (co)variances attributable to two reproductive routes showed that within-age and among-age covariances contributed substantially to the total variance and that extra-pair reproduction can alter the (co)variance structure of age-specific reproductive success. Such covariances and impacts should consequently be integrated into theoretical assessments of demographic and evolutionary processes in age-structured populations.