DNA Fingerprinting Reveals Female Preference for Male Parental Care in Savannah Sparrows
According to sexual selection theory, females choose mates to ensure access to high quality resources, male parental care, or good genes. This last hypothesis has been hotly debated on both theoretical and empirical grounds. In contrast, female preference for male parental care has received less attention, primarily because the potential benefits of paternal effort seem obvious. The fitness relations are less clear in double-brood species, however, because females can base mating decisions on their prior experience with male parental care. Here, the extent of male parental care delivered to first-brood offspring may indicate male genetic quality and/or be the target of female manipulation via her subsequent mating fidelity. In Savannah Sparrows (Passerculus sandwichensis), multi-locus DNA fingerprinting of 203 adults and young revealed substantial female infidelity in first and second broods: overall, 24 of 80 first-brood young (30%) and 13 of 80 second-brood young (16.3%) were the product of extra-pair fertilizations. Among 12 females altering fidelity between broods, absolute male feeding rate to first-brood offspring was a strong, positive predictor of change in female fidelity. Because the extent of male parental care reflects a male's viability, the data support a 'good-genes' interpretation.
Proceedings of the Royal Society, London, Series B: Biological Sciences
Freeman-Gallant, Corey R., "DNA Fingerprinting Reveals Female Preference for Male Parental Care in Savannah Sparrows" (1996). Biology Faculty Scholarship. 39.