Extra-pair paternity in the shag, Phalacrocorax aristotelis as determined by DNA fingerprinting



The frequency of chicks resulting from extra-pair copulation in the shag, Phalacrocorax aristotelis, was measured by DNA fingerprinting. DNA fingerprints were taken from both sexes of 15 pairs and their chicks (28) in a subcolony on the Isle of May, UK. It was found that 18% of the chicks had extra-pair paternity, and one chick (3.5%) was not the offspring of either member of the pair, implying either a polygynous male whose second female was fertilized by another male or adoption. Although no observations of courtship and copulation were made in the same season, observations in a previous year on the same colony of shags showed that 14.1% of the copulations by males were not with the female with whom that male reared young. The similarities and differences are discussed between these results on the level of extra-pair copulations and of extra-pair paternity and those of other studies where both observations of extra-pair copulations and various measures of the degree of extra-pair paternity have been made.