Long tails matter in sugarbirds—positively for extrapair but negatively for within-pair fertilization success.

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    • Abstract:
      Extrapair mating is known to occur in many animals and potentially has a significant influence on reproductive success. Female extrapair mate choice may explain the occurrence of exaggerated ornaments in socially monogamous species, but the influence of ornamentation on extrapair mating success has rarely been investigated experimentally. Cape sugarbirds (Promerops cafer) are socially monogamous, almost always lay 2 egg clutches and have long-term pair bonds often lasting several seasons. However, they also display sexually dimorphic extravagant ornamentation in the form of a long, graduated tail and have one of the highest rates (65% of young) of extrapair paternity recorded in birds. We provide a test of the hypothesis that the ornamented tail is used in mate choice for extrapair partners by conducting an experiment in which tail length was manipulated after social mating but before copulation. This experiment therefore allowed females to respond to the manipulation of male tail length when making a choice of copulation partner but not social mate. We show that the tail length of male sugarbirds has a significant effect on the success of males in gaining extrapair paternity, with long-tailed males obtaining significantly more extrapair young than short-tailed males. However, males with short tails sire a significantly greater proportion of the nestlings in their own nests than long-tailed individuals. This result suggests that males may adopt alternative strategies dependent on their ornamentation. [ABSTRACT FROM PUBLISHER]
    • Abstract:
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