Female and male genetic effects on offspring paternity: Additive genetic (co)variances in female extra-pair reproduction and male paternity success in song sparrows (melospiza melodia)

Jane M. Reid*, Peter Arcese, Lukas F. Keller, Sylvain Losdat

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)
10 Downloads (Pure)


Ongoing evolution of polyandry, and consequent extra-pair reproduction in socially monogamous systems, is hypothesized to be facilitated by indirect selection stemming from cross-sex genetic covariances with components of male fitness. Specifically, polyandry is hypothesized to create positive genetic covariance with male paternity success due to inevitable assortative reproduction, driving ongoing coevolution. However, it remains unclear whether such covariances could or do emerge within complex polyandrous systems. First, we illustrate that genetic covariances between female extra-pair reproduction and male within-pair paternity success might be constrained in socially monogamous systems where female and male additive genetic effects can have opposing impacts on the paternity of jointly reared offspring. Second, we demonstrate nonzero additive genetic variance in female liability for extra-pair reproduction and male liability for within-pair paternity success, modeled as direct and associative genetic effects on offspring paternity, respectively, in free-living song sparrows (Melospiza melodia). The posterior mean additive genetic covariance between these liabilities was slightly positive, but the credible interval was wide and overlapped zero. Therefore, although substantial total additive genetic variance exists, the hypothesis that ongoing evolution of female extra-pair reproduction is facilitated by genetic covariance with male within-pair paternity success cannot yet be definitively supported or rejected either conceptually or empirically.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2357-2370
Number of pages14
Issue number8
Early online date22 May 2014
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2014

Bibliographical note


We thank the Tsawout and Tseycum first nations bands for allowing access to Mandarte; everyone who contributed to long-term data collection; R. Sardell and P. Nietlisbach for their meticulous paternity analysis; J. Hadfield for valuable analytical advice; M. Wolak for helpful comments; and the European Research Council, Marie Curie Actions, Natural Environment Research Council, Royal Society, National Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada and Swiss National Science Foundation for funding.


  • Associative genetic effects
  • Assortative reproduction
  • Fertilization success
  • Multiple mating
  • Polyandry
  • Reproductive strategy


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