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How much multiple paternity should we expect? A study of birds and contrast with mammals
  • F. Stephen Dobson,
  • Hannah Correia,
  • Ash Abebe
F. Stephen Dobson
Auburn University

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

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Hannah Correia
Auburn University
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Ash Abebe
Auburn University
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Parentage analyses via molecular markers have revealed multiple paternity within the broods of polytocous species, reshaping our understanding of animal behavior, ecology, and evolution. In a meta-analysis of multiple paternity in bird and mammal species, we conducted a literature search and found 138 bird and 64 mammal populations with microsatellite DNA paternity results. Bird populations averaged 19.5% multiple paternity and mammals more than twice that level (46.1%). We used a Bayesian approach to construct a null model for how multiple paternity should behave at random among species, under the assumption that all mated males have equal likelihood of siring success, given mean brood size and mean number of sires. We compared the differences between the null model and actual probabilities of multiple paternity. While a few bird populations fell close to the null model, most did not, averaging 34.0-percentage points below null model predictions; mammals had an average probability of multiple paternity 13.6-percentage points below the null model. Differences between bird and mammal species were also subjected to comparative phylogenetic analyses that generally confirmed our analyses that did not adjust for estimated historical relationships. Birds exhibited extremely low probabilities of multiple paternity, not only compared to mammals, but relative to other major animal taxa. The generally low probability of multiple paternity in birds might be produced by a variety of factors, including behaviors that reflect sexual selection (extreme mate guarding or unifocal female choice) and sperm competition (e.g., precedence effects favoring fertilization by early or late matings).
06 Nov 2023Submitted to Ecology and Evolution
07 Nov 2023Assigned to Editor
07 Nov 2023Submission Checks Completed
09 Nov 2023Reviewer(s) Assigned