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Age increases chance of success as two-timer
Date:10/23/2007

e care of their joint offspring together. But are the young really always the offspring of the father who is taking care of the brood" The genetic data tell a completely different story: 'With the primary brood in May, every third nestling is from a two-timing spouse, with the second brood in June, it's even every second one,' Tim Schmoll says. 'With the second brood coal tits are among the top 10 world wide who have'extra-marital affairs'!"

'Greenhorns' father fewer 'cuckoo kids'

Older males succeed considerably more often in palming off a 'cuckoo kid' on their rivals than 'greenhorns' do. In their first year of breeding, male coal tits father only 0.3 'extra-marital offspring' on average. In the years after this, they manage to get almost two young per season into their rivals' nests. But in doing so, they do not neglect their own female. The success of their 'regular' procreation is not affected by trespassing on foreign territory. 'We carried out our study in two different years, in order to see whether our observations were reproducible,' Tim Schmoll explains. 'The effect of age is very significant and reliable. However, other factors such as singing, attract-tiveness of plumage or social status are probably also of significance for their success as Casanovas.

But why are the older coal tits more successful at cheating" Is this due to the fact that females tend to fall for the older seducers rather than the younger ones" The ones that survive long should have good genes, maybe these genes are therefore par- ticularly popular. A preference of the females for more mature males would be rewarded with offspring which are particularly fitted to survive and be favoured in the course of evolution.

The study, funded by the German Research Association (Deutsche Forschungs-gemeinschaft, the DFG), does not draw any final conclusions yet. 'We presume that the male's experience also plays a significant role.' In that case, older ma
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Contact: Tim Schmoll
tschmoll@evolution.uni-bonn.de
49-022-873-5126
University of Bonn
Source:Eurekalert

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