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Nature. 1990 Jan 11;343(6254):168-70.

No evidence for illegitimate young in monogamous and polygynous warblers.

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  • 1Department of Biochemistry, University of California, Berkeley 94720.


In animals with internal fertilization, paternity is uncertain. In birds, the occurrence of copulations outside the pair-bond has been documented in a number of species, but the extent to which these result in illegitimate young is largely unknown, and constitutes a major deficiency in our understanding of avian mating systems. The analysis of tandemly repeated sequences (minisatellites), has enhanced our ability to make individual identifications and paternity determinations. Here we describe the use of a bird minisatellite DNA probe in assigning paternity in natural populations of the monogamous willow warbler Phylloscopus trochilus and of the polygynous wood warbler Phylloscopus sibilatrix. In both species this probe detects a multiple locus pattern and a single locus that exhibits a variable number of tandem repeats. Although we observed intrusions by non-resident males into the territories of paired males and extra-pair copulations, no illegitimate offspring were detected among 176 young from 32 families of both species, implying that extra-pair copulations have little or no genetic impact.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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