Genetic mating system and timing of extra-pair fertilizations in the Kentish plover

C Kupper, J Kis, A Kosztolanyi, T Szekely, I C Cuthill, D Blomqvist

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Citations (SciVal)


It is still unclear why females in many bird species pursue extra-pair copulations. Current hypotheses focus mainly on indirect benefits such as obtaining particular "good genes" for their offspring or maximizing genetic compatibility between themselves and the father of their offspring. Supporting the latter, a recent study of shorebirds suggests that extra-pair matings may function to avoid the negative effects of genetic similarity between mates. Here, we further investigate genetic parentage in the Kentish plover, Charadrius alexandrinus, a shorebird with a highly variable social mating system. DNA fingerprinting revealed that most pairs were genetically monogamous: 7.9% of the broods (7/89) contained extra-pair young, comprising 3.9% of all chicks (9/229). These cases represented, however, three alternative reproductive behaviors: extra-pair paternity, quasi-parasitism (extra-pair maternity) and intraspecific brood parasitism. This is the first study showing the occurrence of all three behaviors in one shorebird species. We also found that extra-pair fertilizations (extra-pair paternity and quasi-parasitism) were more frequent later in the breeding season. There was no consistent relationship between genetic similarity of mates and laying date; the pattern, as well as the degree of genetic similarity, differed among breeding sites within the study population.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)32-39
Number of pages8
JournalBehavioral Ecology and Sociobiology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2004


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