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Sperm competition in the European starling (Sturnus vulgaris): An experimental study of mate switching

  • Henrik Smith
  • Liv Wennerberg
  • Torbjörn von Schantz
Publishing year: 1996
Language: English
Pages: 797-801
Publication/Series: Royal Society of London. Proceedings B. Biological Sciences
Volume: 263
Issue: 1371
Document type: Journal article
Publisher: Royal Society

Abstract english

In apparently monogamous or polygynous birds, sperm from several males may compete to fertilize the eggs laid by one female. In this study we evaluate sperm competition in the European starling (Sturnus vulgaris) by means of a mate-switching experiment. Already-mated males were removed between 1-7 d before their mates started egg-laying, resulting in the female remating with a new male. The original males' parentage in the subsequent clutches was evaluated using DNA-fingerprinting. The original males fathered only two out of 46 eggs of those which were not likely to have been fertilized already when the males were removed. The low success of the original males can be attributed to a high within-pair copulation frequency during the assumed fertile period before laying and throughout the laying period, resulting in replacement males fathering most offspring. Thus the success of extra-pair copulations more than 2 d before egg-laying is probably very low. The results are discussed in relation to contrasting results from other mate-switching studies.


  • Biological Sciences
  • Ecology
  • frequency
  • extra-pair paternity
  • intraspecific brood parasitism
  • female control
  • dna
  • zebra finch
  • birds
  • copulation
  • cuckoldry


  • Molecular Ecology and Evolution Lab
  • ISSN: 1471-2954
Henrik Smith
E-mail: henrik [dot] smith [at] biol [dot] lu [dot] se



+46 46 222 93 79

+46 70 978 20 56




Centre for Environmental and Climate Research (CEC)

+46 46 222 93 79

+46 70 978 20 56


Sölvegatan 37, Lund


Centre for Animal Movement Research
Evolutionary Ecology, Department of Biology
Ecology building S-223 62 Lund Sweden