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J Evol Biol. 2013 Jan;26(1):155-62. doi: 10.1111/jeb.12039. Epub 2012 Nov 23.

Faithful females receive more help: the extent of male parental care during incubation in relation to extra-pair paternity in songbirds.

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Laboratory of Ornithology, Department of Zoology, Palacký University, Olomouc, Czech Republic.


Parental care provided by males occurs in a diverse array of animals and there are large differences among species in its extent compared with female care. However, social and ecological factors responsible for interspecific differences in male's share of parental duties remain unclear. Genetic fidelity of females has been long considered important. Theory predicts that females should receive more help from their mates in raising the offspring in species with high genetic fidelity. Using avian incubation behaviour as a model system, we confirmed this prediction. The extent of male's help during incubation increased with decreasing rate of extra-pair paternity across species (22 species of socially monogamous songbirds from 13 families; male's share of incubation ranged from 6% to 58%), even after accounting for covariates, biases in species selection and intraspecific variability. Moreover, this result was not sensitive to two different phylogenies and branch length estimates. We suggest that our findings support the notion, backed by theory, that genetic fidelity is an important factor in the evolution of male parental care. We offer several behavioural scenarios for the coevolution between male's share of parental duties and the genetic mating system.

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