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Selected Publication:

Type of publication: Journal Article
Type of document: Full Paper

Year: 1992

Authors: Wagner, RH

Title: Extra-Pair Copulations In A Lek - The Secondary Mating System Of Monogamous Razorbills.

Source: Behav Ecol Sociobiol (31), 1 63-71.

Authors Vetmeduni Vienna:

Wagner Richard

I studied the mating strategies of razorbills Alca torda, a monogamous colonial seabird, during 1987-1989 in Wales, U.K. The outstanding feature of the study population's mating system was the performance of most copulations in mating arenas outside the colony. Females visited the arenas and sometimes accepted extra-pair copulations (EPCs), and males aggressively competed for EPCs. During the fertilizable period of most females, the arenas resembled leks because they contained no resources except mates, and males contributed only sperm to extra-pair females. Typical of leks, the operational sex ratio was strongly male-biased, and male mating success was highly skewed. To examine the potential for sexual selection to operate in this system, I correlated male EPC success with variables that could be associated with male-male competition and/or female choice. The frequencies of three behaviors (interference of copulation attempts, fights won against other males, and EPC attempts), accounted for 62% of the variance in EPC success and were strongly intercorrelated, with interference explaining most of the variance in a multivariate test. EPC success was not correlated with body size, age, paired status or either of two estimates of the time spent in the arena. The hypothesis that male EPC success was determined by active female choice was tested by examining the relative success (EPCs per attempt) of males. Relative success was not correlated with any of the three behaviors associated with absolute success, or with age, body size or attendance, suggesting that male-male competition, mainly in the form of copulation interference, is the principal correlate of EPC success. These findings in a monogamous species illustrate that EPC is a secondary mating system of razorbills in which sexual selection operates. The existence of this system outside the colony raises the possibility that lekking for EPCs may also occur within the nesting territories of other monogamous, colonial species but is "hidden " by competition for nests and breeding partners.

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