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Extrapair paternity has been suggested to represent a potentially important source of sexual selection on male secondary sexual characters, particularly in birds with predominantly socially monogamous mating systems. However, relatively few studies have demonstrated sexual selection within single species by this mechanism, and there have been few attempts to assess the importance of extrapair paternity in relation to other mechanisms of sexual selection. We report estimates of sexual selection gradients on male secondary sexual plumage characters resulting from extrapair paternity in the collared flycatcher Ficedula albicollis, and compare the importance of this form of sexual selection with that resulting from variation in mate fecundity. Microsatellite genotyping revealed that 15% of nestlings, distributed nonrandomly among 33% of broods (N=79), were the result of extrapair copulations. Multivariate selection analyses revealed significant positive directional sexual selection on two uncorrelated secondary sexual characters in males (forehead and wing patch size) when fledgling number was used as the measure of fitness. When number of offspring recruiting to the breeding population was used as the measure of male fitness, selection on these traits appeared to be directional and stabilizing, respectively. Pairwise comparisons of cuckolded and cuckolding males revealed that males that sired young through extrapair copulations had wider forehead patches, and were paired to females that bred earlier, than the males that they cuckolded. Path analysis was used to partition selection on these traits into pathways via mate fecundity and sperm competition, and suggested that the sperm competition pathway accounted for between 64 and 90% of the total sexual selection via the two paths. The selection revealed in these analyses is relatively weak in comparison with many other measures of selection in natural populations. We offer some explanations for the relatively weak selection detected. Copyright 1999 The Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour.

Original publication




Journal article


Anim Behav

Publication Date





285 - 298