Restrictive mating by females on black grouse leks

Christophe Lebigre, Rauno V. Alatalo, Heli Siitari, Silja Parri

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26 Citations (Scopus)


In bird species with pair bonds, extra-pair matings could allow females to choose genetically superior males. This is not needed in lekking species because female choice is not constrained by pairing opportunities. However, polyandry has been reported in most lekking species studied so far. Using 12 microsatellite loci, we determined the paternity of 135 broods of black grouse sampled between 2001 and 2005 (970 hatchlings and 811 adult birds genotyped). The paternity assignments were combined to lek observations to investigate the mating behaviour of black grouse females. About 10% of the matings seemed to take place with males displaying solitarily. Forty per cent of the copulations between males displaying on the studied leks and radio-tagged females were not recorded. This was due to difficulties in identifying the females and because our observations did not cover all the possible time for matings. However, females of the undetected copulations had chosen males that were already known to be successful on the leks. There was a strong consistency between the observations and true paternity, even when the copulation was disturbed by a neighbouring male. Multiple mating and multiple paternities were rare. We can now confidently ascertain that most females mate only once with one male for the whole clutch. This mating behaviour requires that a single insemination is sufficient to fertilize a clutch and that females can determine whether the sperm has been successfully transferred. Grouse Tetraoninae with many lekking species may be the only bird taxon that has evolved these traits.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4380-4389
Number of pages10
JournalMolecular Ecology
Issue number20
Early online date10 Sept 2007
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2007


  • black grouse
  • lek
  • mate choice
  • monogamy
  • multiple paternity
  • wild bird population
  • extra-pair paternity
  • sexual selection
  • tetrao tetrix
  • sperm competition
  • genetic benefits
  • lekking males


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