High frequency of extrapair fertilization in a plural breeding bird, the Mexican jay, revealed by DNA microsatellites

Shou Hsien Li, Jerram L. Brown

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

26 Citations (Scopus)


We used tetra-nucleotide microsatellite DNA typing to estimate the frequency of extrapair fertilization (EPF) in a plural breeding species, the Mexican jay, Aphelocoma ultramarina, in Arizona. We found EPF in 32 of 51 complete broods (63%) and 55 of 139 nestlings (40%) for which the putative father had been identified (one of the highest rates of EPF known for birds). At least 96.1% of EPF fathers came from within the group. This is by far the highest known within-group EPF rate among socially monogamous, communally rearing species. Most (70%) males of breeding age (3+ years) had no genetic paternity in a given year. Social fathers (i.e. those with nests and mated females) rarely obtained EPFs; of 25 social fathers, 23 had young in only one nest and only two had young in two nests by virtue of EPF. Of the 27 males known to be EPF fathers without a nest of their own, none had young in more than one nest. Only 7% of EPF fathers had their own broods reaching banding age (day 14), compared with 29.7% of social fathers. The proportion of EPF young was significantly larger in smaller broods. Breeding females in all age classes were equally likely to have EPF young.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)867-877
Number of pages11
JournalAnimal Behaviour
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2000 Jan 1


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology

Cite this