Condition-dependent genetic benefits of extrapair fertilization in female blue tits Cyanistes caeruleus


A. N. Dreiss, Department of Ecology and Evolution, University of Lausanne, Biology Building, CH-1015 Lausanne, Switzerland.
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In many socially monogamous birds, both partners perform extrapair copulations (EPC). As this behaviour potentially inflicts direct costs on females, they are currently hypothesized to search for genetic benefits for descendants, either as ‘good’ or ‘complementary’ genes. Although these hypotheses have found some support, several studies failed to find any beneficial consequence of EPC, and whether this behaviour is adaptive to females is subject to discussion. Here, we test these two hypotheses in a natural population of blue tits by accounting for the effect of most parameters known to potentially affect extrapair fertilization. Results suggest that female body mass affected the type of extrapair genetic benefits obtained. Heavy females obtained extrapair fertilizations when their social male was of low quality (as reflected by sexual display) and produced larger extrapair than within-pair chicks. Lean females obtained extrapair fertilizations when their social mate was genetically similar, thereby producing more heterozygous extrapair chicks. Our results suggest that mating patterns may be condition-dependent.