Copulation duration during courtship predicts fertility in the eurasian kestrel Falco tinnunculus

Authors: Pablo VERGARA and Juan Antonio FARGALLO

E-mail: vergara@mncn.csic.es

Published: Volume 55(2), December 2008. Pages 153-160.

Language: English

Keywords: agonistic behaviour, copulation frequency, extra-pair copulation, extra-pair paternity, mate guarding and paternity assurance

Summary:

Aims: Mechanisms that reduce cuckoldry such as frequent or long copulations are adaptive for males. However, these behaviours are costly and their intensity should therefore be adjusted to the risk of extra pair copulation (EPC) as perceived by males. In addition, it has been proposed that high quality males perceive a lower risk of EPC than low quality males, and consequently show low paternity assurance responses. This hypothesis was tested in the eurasian kestrel by studying the relationship between copulation frequency and duration, and variables that are considered indexes of quality in this species (e.g. clutch size).

Location: Campo Azálvaro region (central Spain).

Methods: Nests were monitored during the pre-laying period to record copulation frequency (presence or absence) and duration.

Results: It was found that males having larger clutches showed shorter copulas. In addition, no relationships were found between copulation frequency and any of the studied indexes of male quality. As far as is known, this is the first case in which copulation behaviour co-varies negatively with an index of male quality in terms of breeding performance.

Conclusions: It is suggested that females mating with high quality males do not seek EPCs, which reduce the risk of extra-pair paternity perceived by these males.

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