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Genetic monogamy despite frequent extrapair copulations in "strictly monogamous" wild jackdaws

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Gill,  Lisa
Abteilung Gahr, Seewiesen, Max Planck Institut für Ornithologie, Max Planck Society;
Center of Advanced European Studies and Research (caesar), Max Planck Society;

von Bayern,  Auguste M. P.
Abteilung Gahr, Seewiesen, Max Planck Institut für Ornithologie, Max Planck Society;

Gahr,  Manfred L.
Abteilung Gahr, Seewiesen, Max Planck Institut für Ornithologie, Max Planck Society;

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Citation

Gill, L., van Schaik, J., von Bayern, A. M. P., & Gahr, M. L. (2020). Genetic monogamy despite frequent extrapair copulations in "strictly monogamous" wild jackdaws. Behavioral Ecology, 31(1), 247-260. doi:10.1093/beheco/arz185.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0006-CFEF-5
Abstract
"Monogamy" refers to different components of pair exclusiveness: the social pair, sexual partners, and the genetic outcome of sexual encounters. Avian monogamy is usually defined socially or genetically, whereas quantifications of sexual behavior remain scarce. Jackdaws (Corvus monedula) are considered a rare example of strict monogamy in songbirds, with lifelong pair bonds and little genetic evidence for extrapair (EP) offspring. Yet jackdaw copulations, although accompanied by loud copulation calls, are rarely observed because they occur visually concealed inside nest cavities. Using full-day nest-box video surveillance and on-bird acoustic bio-logging, we directly observed jackdaw sexual behavior and compared it to the corresponding genetic outcome obtained via molecular parentage analysis. In the video-observed nests, we found genetic monogamy but frequently detected forced EP sexual behavior, accompanied by characteristic male copulation calls. We, thus, challenge the long-held notion of strict jackdaw monogamy at the sexual level. Our data suggest that male mate guarding and frequent intrapair copulations during the female fertile phase, as well as the forced nature of the copulations, could explain the absence of EP offspring. Because EP copulation behavior appeared to be costly for both sexes, we suggest that immediate fitness benefits are an unlikely explanation for its prevalence. Instead, sexual conflict and dominance effects could interact to shape the spatiotemporal pattern of EP sexual behavior in this species. Our results call for larger-scale investigations of jackdaw sexual behavior and parentage and highlight the importance of combining social, sexual, and genetic data sets for a more complete understanding of mating systems.