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One specific hypothesis explaining the evolution of extra-pair reproduction (EPR) by socially monogamous females is that EPR is under indirect selection because extra-pair offspring (EPO) sired by extra-pair males have higher additive genetic value for fitness than the within-pair offspring (WPO) a female would have produced had she solely mated with her socially paired male. This hypothesis has not been explicitly tested by comparing additive genetic value between EPO and the WPO they replaced. We show that the difference in additive genetic breeding value (BV) between EPO and the WPO they replaced is proportional to the genetic covariance between offspring fitness and male net paternity gain through EPR, and estimate this covariance with respect to offspring recruitment in free-living song sparrows (Melospiza melodia). Recruitment and net paternity gain showed non-zero additive genetic variance and heritability, and negative genetic covariance. Opposite to prediction, EPO therefore had lower BV for recruitment than the WPO they replaced. We thereby demonstrate an explicit quantitative genetic approach to testing the hypothesis that EPR allows polyandrous females to increase offspring additive genetic value, and suggest that there may be weak indirect selection against female EPR through reduced additive genetic value for recruitment of EPO versus WPO in song sparrows.

Original publication




Journal article


Proc Biol Sci

Publication Date





1700 - 1708


Animals Female Genetic Variation *Inbreeding Male *Pair Bond Phenotype Reproduction/*genetics/*physiology Selection, Genetic/*genetics Sexual Behavior, Animal/*physiology Sparrows/*genetics