Sexual conflict arising from extrapair matings in birds.
Published Web Locationhttps://doi.org/10.1101/cshperspect.a017590
The discovery that extrapair copulation (EPC) and extrapair paternity (EPP) are common in birds led to a paradigm shift in our understanding of the evolution of mating systems. The prevalence of extrapair matings in pair-bonded species sets the stage for sexual conflict, and a recent focus has been to consider how this conflict can shape variation in extrapair mating rates. Here, we invert the causal arrow and consider the consequences of extrapair matings for sexual conflict. Extrapair matings shift sexual conflict from a simple two-player (male vs. female) game to a game with three or more players, the nature of which we illustrate with simple diagrams that highlight the net costs and benefits of extrapair matings to each player. This approach helps identify the sorts of traits that might be under selection because of sexual conflict. Whether EPP is driven primarily by the extrapair male or the within-pair female profoundly influences which players are in conflict, but the overall pattern of conflict varies little among different mating systems. Different aspects of conflict are manifest at different stages of the breeding cycle and can be profitably considered as distinct episodes of selection caused by conflict. This perspective is illuminating both because conflict between specific players can change across episodes and because the traits that evolve to mediate conflict likely differ between episodes. Although EPP clearly leads to sexual conflict, we suggest that the link between sexual conflict and multiple paternity might be usefully understood by examining how deviations from lifetime sexual monogamy influence sexual conflict.