Female extra-pair mating: adaptation or genetic constraint?

Wolfgang Forstmeier*, Shinichi Nakagawa, Simon C. Griffith, Bart Kempenaers

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

109 Citations (Scopus)


Why do females of so many socially monogamous species regularly engage in matings outside the pair bond? This question has puzzled behavioural ecologists for more than two decades. Until recently, an adaptionist's point of view prevailed: if females actively seek extra-pair copulations, as has been observed in several species, they must somehow benefit from this behaviour. However, do they? In this review, we argue that adaptive scenarios have received disproportionate research attention, whereas nonadaptive phenomena, such as pathological polyspermy, de novo mutations, and genetic constraints, have been neglected by empiricists and theoreticians alike. We suggest that these topics deserve to be taken seriously and that future work would benefit from combining classical behavioural ecology with reproductive physiology and evolutionary genetics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)456-464
Number of pages9
JournalTrends in Ecology and Evolution
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2014


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