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Evolutionary consequences of infidelity in birds: Can extra-pair relationships give rise to sexual dimorphism?


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Male and female blue tits are hard to distinguish for the human observer. However, in the UV-range, visible to birds, the male is much more colourful. A closer look at the monogamous mating system of these birds again reveals that all is not what it seems: in every second nest there are chicks that are not related to the care-giving father. An already mated male can increase the number of his offspring by siring extra-pair offspring in other nests than the one he cares for with his mate. Researchers investigated whether this could be the driving force behind the evolution of sexual dimorphism. However, effects of extra-pair paternity are limited, cuckoldry can even reduce the intensity of sexual selection.gKuQZ5vCT_o

 

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In the bird world, male and female blue tits are hard to distinguish for the human observer. However, in the UV-range, visible to birds, the male is much more colourful. A closer look at the monogamous mating system of these birds again reveals that all is not what it seems: in every second nest there are chicks that are not related to the care-giving father. An already mated male can increase the number of his offspring by siring extra-pair offspring in other nests than the one he cares for with his mate. Emmi Schlicht and Bart Kempenaers of the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Seewiesen investigated whether this could be the driving force behind the evolution of sexual dimorphism. However, their findings suggest that effects of extra-pair paternity are limited, and cuckoldry can even reduce the intensity of sexual selection.

 

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Sexual Dimorphism And The Evolutionary Consequences Of Infidelity

Science 2.0

Emmi Schlicht and Bart Kempenaers of the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Seewiesen have used data from six years of field research to examine the mating system of blue tits. The result: social relationships are the ones that count, whereas ...

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