No evidence of immediate fitness benefits of within-season divorce in monogamous birds

A. Culina* (Corresponding author), Lyanne Brouwer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal/periodicalArticleScientificpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
37 Downloads (Pure)


Individuals of socially monogamous species can correct for suboptimal partnerships via two secondary mating strategies: divorce and extra-pair mating, with the former potentially providing both genetic and social benefits. Divorcing between breeding seasons has been shown to be generally adaptive behaviour across monogamous birds. Interestingly, some pairs also divorce during the breeding season, when constraints on finding a new partner are stronger. Despite being important for a comprehensive understanding of the evolution of social monogamy, whether within-season divorce is adaptive and how it relates to extra-pair mating remains unknown. Here, we meta-analysed 90 effect sizes on within-season divorce and breeding success, extracted from 31 studies on 24 species. We found no evidence that within-season divorce is adaptive for breeding success. However, the large heterogeneity of effect sizes and strong phylogenetic signal suggest social and environmental factors—which have rarely been considered in empirical studies—may play an important role in explaining variation among populations and species. Furthermore, we found no evidence that within-season divorce and extra-pair mating are complementary strategies. We discuss our findings within the current evidence of the adaptiveness of secondary mating strategies and their interplay that ultimately shapes the evolution of social monogamy.
Original languageEnglish
Article number20210671
JournalBiology Letters
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • extra-pair paternity
  • monogamy
  • within-season divorce
  • meta-analysis
  • birds


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