The use of genetic markers to estimate the frequency of successful alternative reproductive tactics

David F. Westneat, Peter C. Frederick, R. Haven Wiley

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64 Scopus citations


This paper outlines a method for estimating rates of successful alternative reproductive tactics from parental exclusions known through the use of genetic markers. We review a method for calculating the probability of excluding a putative father when he is not the actual father. We adapt this method to model two mating tactics of concern to sociobiologists: extrapair copulations (EPCs) and intra-specific egg parasitism (egg-dumping). Four different types of parental exclusions are possible (both male and female, male only, female only, and ambiguous). The two models predict different proportions of each type of exclusion. Models are also generated for the case when the putative mother's or father's genotypes are not available. We used parental exclusions from an electrophoretic study of indigo buntings (Westneat 1987b) to demonstrate these methods. The distribution of parental exclusions in the buntings departed significantly from the predictions of the egg-dumping model, but agreed well with those of the EPC model. The probability of detection for the EPC model (0.401) was then used to estimate the actual rate of extra-pair fertilizations (0.421 of all the young sampled). We present a method for calculating a confidence interval on this estimate, which ranged from 0.247 to 0.659. We concluded that these methods will allow the quantitative study of the success of alternative reproductive tactics in a wide variety of species.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)35-45
Number of pages11
JournalBehavioral Ecology and Sociobiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 1987

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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