Polyandry in coal tits Parus ater: fitness consequences of putting eggs into multiple genetic baskets


Tim Schmoll, Institute for Evolutionary Biology and Ecology, University of Bonn, An der Immenburg 1, D-53121 Bonn, Germany.
Tel.: +49-228-735126; fax: +49-228-735129;
e-mail: tschmoll@evolution.uni-bonn.de


Females of many species mate with multiple males within a single reproductive cycle. One hypothesis to explain polyandry postulates that females benefit from increasing within-brood genetic diversity. Two mechanisms may render sire genetic diversity beneficial for females, genetic bet-hedging vs. non-bet-hedging. We analysed whether females of the socially monogamous coal tit (Parus ater) benefit via either of these mechanisms when engaging in extra-pair (i.e. polyandrous) mating. To obtain a measure of within-brood genetic diversity as a function of paternal genetic contributions, we calculated a sire diversity index based on the established Shannon–Wiener Index. In 246 broods from two consecutive years, sire genetic diversity had no effect on either the mean or the variance in brood fitness measured as offspring recruitment within 4 years after birth. The hypothesis that benefits of increasing sire diversity contribute to selection for female extra-pair mating behaviour in P. ater was therefore not supported.