Seabird Mating Systems

waal epf fig.JPG (18090 bytes) We are involved in several studies of seabird mating systems.  The one that is farthest along is a collaboration with Kate Huyvaert in Patty Parker's lab (University of Missouri, St. Louis) on waved albatross mating outside of pair bonds.   Kate started this study while working on her M.S. research on juvenile survivorship and natal dispersal of Nazca boobies, and took the project with her to USML for her Ph.D.

Waved albatrosses breed on Isla Espanola in the Galapagos.  A peculiar characteristic of males during the pre-laying period is their chasing of other adults and attempts to copulate.  Kate's work has initially shown that these attempts lead to extra-pair fertilizations.  This figure identifies four families (from a group of 16 total) in which baby shows an unusual number of RFLP bands that are not attributable to its two social parents (see the separation along the y-axis).   The separation of fathers and mothers along the x-axis indicates that the genetic mismatch of baby to parents is due to mismatch with fathers only.  That is, social mothers are in fact genetic mothers also, but social fathers are genetic fathers in only about 75% of families.

Kate is following up this genetic study with intensive behavioral work to understand the causation of the behavior, from perspectives of both the attacking males and the receiving females.

We have conducted similar studies with Nazca boobies, in collaboration with Peter Boag at Queen's University, detecting NO EPF in that species.   A priori consideration of the seabird life history leads to the expectation that both Nazca boobies and waved albatrosses should have low rates of EPC.   Kate hopes to resolve why behavior of waved albatrosses departs from this expectation.

For more on this work see:

K. P. Huyvaert, D. J. Anderson, T. Jones, W. Duan, and P. Parker.  2000.   Extra-pair fertilizations in waved albatrosses. Molecular Ecology 9:1415-1419.

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