Extra-pair mating opportunities mediate parenting and mating effort trade-offs in a songbird

Lv, L., Zhang, Z., Groenewoud, F., Kingma, S. A., Li, J., van der Velde, M. & Komdeur, J., Apr-2020, In : Behavioral Ecology. 31, 2, p. 421-431 11 p.

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  • Extra-pair mating opportunities mediate parenting and mating effort trade-offs in a songbird

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In socially monogamous species with bi-parental care, males may face a trade-off between providing parental care and pursuing extra-pair matings. The "parenting-mating trade-off" hypothesis predicts that high-quality males-who have greater potential to gain extra-pair matings, for example, larger males usually win the competition for extra-pair mating-should reduce parental care and spend more time looking for extra-pair matings. However, the trade-off between parenting and mating efforts may be complicated by variation in the availability of extra-pair mating opportunities. By using field data of hair-crested drongos (Dicrurus hottentottus), a species exhibiting bi-parental incubation behavior, collected in central China from 2010 to 2017, we tested whether the potential negative relationship between male quality and paternal care was dependent on the number of nearby fertile females. We found that male drongos mainly seek extra-pair matings during the incubation period and high-quality individuals (males with longer tarsi) are more likely to sire extra-pair offspring. In agreement with the "parenting-mating trade-off" hypothesis, high-quality males incubated less by recessing longer between incubation bouts. However, this was only the case when sufficient fertile females nearby for extra-pair mating opportunities. Females compensated for reduced male care, but this was independent of male quality. This suggests that the reduction in care by high-quality males might be a direct response to extra-pair mating opportunities rather than facilitated by differential allocation of females. Our results indicate that individual quality and available mating opportunities may shape the optimal trade-off between parental care and seeking additional matings for males.

Lay Summary: How do individual quality and the number of potential extra-pair mates influence the optimal trade-off between parental care and engaging extra-pair courtship in animals? In hair-crested drongos, high-quality males, who are more successful in obtaining extra-pair fertilizations, reduced their share in incubation, but only when they had sufficient extra-pair mating opportunities. Females partially compensate for the reduced incubation of their partners, but the compensation was not affected by male quality.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)421-431
Number of pages11
JournalBehavioral Ecology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr-2020


  • parental care, extra-pair mating opportunity, trade-off, male quality, incubation attendance, MALE ATTRACTIVENESS, REPERTOIRE SIZE, PATERNAL CARE, BODY-SIZE, BLUE TITS, MALES, BIRDS, BEHAVIOR, AGE, ORNAMENTATION

ID: 129206064