Repeatability of extra-pair mating in tree swallows


Linda A. Whittingham, Fax: (414) 229 3629; E-mail:


Models of sexual selection assume that female mating preferences are heritable and, thus, repeatable for individual females across multiple mating episodes. Previous studies of the repeatability of female preference have examined individuals in captivity and focused presumably on social mate choice. However, extra-pair mating is widespread and can also influence sexual selection. We examined the repeatability of extra-pair mating in a wild population of tree swallows (Tachycineta bicolor) by experimentally inducing females to lay two clutches in rapid succession within the same season. We found that the proportion of extra-pair young and the number of extra-pair sires were highly repeatable for individual females. However, the repeatability of specific extra-pair sires was low. We suggest that this unusual pattern of mating may be due to females maximizing the heterozygosity of their offspring.