Extra-pair paternity is not repeatable between years in Pied Flycatchers (Ficedula hypoleuca): a role for social context

Mireia Plaza* (Corresponding author), Alejandro Cantarero, Annie Machordom, Eva Serrano-Davies, Juan Moreno

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal/periodicalArticleScientificpeer-review


Extra-pair paternity (EPP) is the consequence of the interactions between a social pair and extra-pair males during the female's fertile phase in a specific social context and ecological environment. Although EPP occurs in many avian species, there is a lack of understanding of how environmental factors may impact its frequency. Accordingly, the relative importance of individual characteristics on the one hand, and of their immediate social environment on the other, may affect EPP repeatability and thereby the capacity of this trait to respond to selection. If EPP is an individual genetically based trait that may respond to selection, we expect it to be repeatable across breeding seasons. To check this possibility, we analysed the within-individual repeatability in EPP of breeding males and females in two natural populations of Pied Flycatchers Ficedula hypoleuca in central Spain during three field seasons. We then studied the relationship between EPP and individual male and female traits (only some of which were themselves repeatable), as well as key context variables such as breeding synchrony and population density. Our results showed no repeatability for EPP in either sex. We found a positive association with laying date and stronger associations of EPP with male plumage and morphological traits than with female characteristics. We suggest that the variable social environment is an important modulator of EPP patterns, and that differences between field EPP studies in this respect may explain contradictory results in the same species, even in the same populations in different years.

Original languageEnglish
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - Apr 2023


  • extra-pair paternity
  • heritability
  • passerines
  • repeatability
  • sexual selection
  • social context


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