Cookies on this website
We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Continue' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

Recent work on wild birds has revealed the importance of sperm competition as a source of sexual selection, but behavioral and paternity studies have previously provided only indirect evidence for mechanisms of sperm competition in wild birds. In a field study of collared flycatchers Ficedula albicollis we used a previously uncharacterized method to determine the frequency and timing of extra-pair inseminations. By counting the number of sperm trapped on the perivitelline layer of eggs, we determined the timing of inseminations and estimated, on a day-to-day basis, the amount of sperm females stored. Our results showed that female collared flycatchers preferentially engaged in extra-pair copulations when mated to an unattractive male with a small white forehead patch. These copulations were timed for the middle part of their fertile period, at least 2 days after the last within-pair insemination. Although the mean number of extra-pair insemination events was only 1.33 per cuckolding female, the ratio between the number of sperm from extra-pair and pair inseminations was at least 5 to 1. Thus a single, well timed extra-pair insemination caused by female behavior could greatly bias fertilization probability in favor of an attractive extra-pair male. Our results suggest a possible behavioral mechanism for female control of sperm competition.

Original publication

DOI

10.1073/pnas.082036699

Type

Journal article

Journal

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A

Publication Date

16/04/2002

Volume

99

Pages

5466 - 5470

Keywords

Animals, Female, Fertilization, Male, Ovum, Sexual Behavior, Animal, Songbirds, Sperm-Ovum Interactions, Spermatozoa, Time Factors