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Female differential allocation in response to extrapair offspring and social mate attractiveness.

Published Web Location Commons 'BY' version 4.0 license

Renewed debate over what benefits females might gain from producing extra-pair offspring emphasizes the possibility that apparent differences in quality between within-pair and extra-pair offspring are confounded by greater maternal investment in extra-pair offspring. Moreover, the attractiveness of a female's social mate can also influence contributions of both partners to a reproductive attempt. Here, we explore the complexities involved in parental investment decisions in response to extra-pair offspring and mate attractiveness with a focus on the female point of view. Adult zebra finches paired and reproduced in a colony setting. A male's early-life diet quality and his extra-pair reproductive success were used as metrics of his mating attractiveness. Females paired with males that achieved extra-pair success laid heavier eggs than other females and spent less time attending their nests than their mates or other females. Extra-pair nestlings were fed more protein-rich hen's egg than within-pair nestlings. Females producing extra-pair offspring had more surviving sons than females producing only within-pair offspring. Collectively, results show that females differentially allocate resources in response to offspring extra-pair status and their social mate's attractiveness. Females may also obtain fitness benefits through the production of extra-pair offspring.

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