Explicit experimental evidence for the effectiveness of proximity as mate-guarding behaviour in reducing extra-pair fertilization in the Seychelles warbler


Jan Komdeur, Fax: +(31) 50 363 5205; E-mail: j.komdeur@rug.nl


Extra-pair copulations (EPCs; copulations outside the pair bond) are widespread in birds and may result in extra-pair fertilizations (EPFs). To increase reproductive success, males should not only seek to gain EPFs, but also prevent their own females from gaining EPFs. Although males could reduce the number of EPCs by their mates, this does not necessarily mean that they reduce the number of EPFs; indeed several studies have found no association between EPCs and EPFs. Male Seychelles warblers (Acrocephalus sechellensis) follow their partner closely during the period when the pair female is most receptive (fertile period). We show that males that guarded their mates more closely were less likely to have extra-pair young in their nest. This study on the Seychelles warbler is the first to provide explicit experimental evidence that mate guarding is effective in reducing EPFs. First, in territories where free-living males were induced to stop mate guarding during the pair female's fertile period, extra-pair parentage was higher than in the control group. Second, in the experimental group, the probability of having an extra-pair nestling in the nest was positively associated with the number of days during the fertile period for which mate guarding was artificially stopped. Thus, male mate guarding was effective in reducing the risk of cuckoldry.