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Paternal investment inversely related to degree of extra-pair paternity in the reed bunting


EXTRA-PAIR copulations, in which a female copulates with a male other than her mate, are known to occur in many bird species1. Here we study a wild population of reed buntings, Emberiza schoeniclus, using single-locus DNA fingerprinting2,3 and find an exceptionally high proportion of extra-pair paternity that accounts for 55% (118/216) of young and 86% (50/58) of nests. Twelve pairs each raised two broods in a single season in which the proportion of extra-pair young differed between the two broods. A highly significant relationship between a male's parental investment and his degree of paternity was revealed by a comparison between the first and second brood of each pair, with more paternal care usually being provided at the nest that contained a lower proportion of extra-pair young. We propose that males can assess their likelihood of paternity and adjust their nestling provisioning rates accordingly.

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Dixon, A., Ross, D., O'Malley, S. et al. Paternal investment inversely related to degree of extra-pair paternity in the reed bunting. Nature 371, 698–700 (1994).

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