Low level of extrapair parentage in wild zebra finches

Simon C. Griffith*, Clare E. Holleley, Mylene M. Mariette, Sarah R. Pryke, Nina Svedin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

94 Citations (Scopus)


The captive zebra finch, Taeniopygia guttata, has become one of the key vertebrate model systems for studying a range of behavioural, physiological and neurological phenomena. In particular, this species has played a key role in developing our understanding of sexual selection and sperm competition. In contrast with the large number of studies using domesticated zebra finches, relatively few studies have focused on free-living populations of wild zebra finches. Investigating the incidence of extrapair paternity in zebra finches in the Australian desert, we found a very low level; 1.7% of 316 offspring from four of 80 broods fathered outside the pair bond. These numbers contrast with the high levels of extrapair paternity observed in domesticated aviary populations, and suggest a low level of sperm competition and sexual selection in natural populations. Our finding of such a low rate of extrapair paternity in the wild zebra finch suggests that it is one of the most genetically monogamous of all passerine species and that has important implications for future studies of this model organism in studies of sexual selection and reproductive biology. In addition, we found that 5.4% of 316 offspring were not related to either putative parent and hatched from eggs that had been dumped by intraspecific brood parasites.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)261-264
Number of pages4
JournalAnimal Behaviour
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2010


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