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CU study reveals why starling females cheat

ork in raising the chicks, or in extreme cases, leaves her to raise the chicks on her own. But because superb starlings, a bird common to East Africa, are cooperative breeders, females have more incentive to stray, said Rubenstein, because even if she is caught cheating, she still may get help from other group members. Yet, superb starlings tend to stray much less often than other cooperative breeders, despite the dual potential benefits for females in seeking extra-pair mates.

"In most avian cooperative breeders, 40 to 60 percent of offspring are a result of extra-pair matings, but in superb starlings, only about 14 percent of the offspring are fathered by other males," said Rubenstein. No one knows why superb starling females have lower rates of cheating, but Rubenstein said it suggests that there may be less conflict between the sexes than in other species. He is currently researching this issue.

While it has long been known that males of many species cheat and mate widely to produce as many offspring as possible to spread their genes, the reasons behind female infidelity appear more complex. With this study and this species, "we can break down the reasons why superb starling females are not faithful to their mates and see that they have different extra-pair mating strategies," said Rubenstein. "It adds a whole new layer of complexity to the story."


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20-Jun-2007


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