Carry-over effects of the social environment on future divorce probability in a wild bird population.
Culina A., Hinde CA., Sheldon BC.
Initial mate choice and re-mating strategies (infidelity and divorce) influence individual fitness. Both of these should be influenced by the social environment, which determines the number and availability of potential partners. While most studies looking at this relationship take a population-level approach, individual-level responses to variation in the social environment remain largely unstudied. Here, we explore carry-over effects on future mating decisions of the social environment in which the initial mating decision occurred. Using detailed data on the winter social networks of great tits, we tested whether the probability of subsequent divorce, a year later, could be predicted by measures of the social environment at the time of pairing. We found that males that had a lower proportion of female associates, and whose partner ranked lower among these, as well as inexperienced breeders, were more likely to divorce after breeding. We found no evidence that a female's social environment influenced the probability of divorce. Our findings highlight the importance of the social environment that individuals experience during initial pair formation on later pairing outcomes, and demonstrate that such effects can be delayed. Exploring these extended effects of the social environment can yield valuable insights into processes and selective pressures acting upon the mating strategies that individuals adopt.