Document Type



Bateman’s principle, which states that male reproductive success should increase with multiple mating, whereas female reproductive success should not, has long been used to explain sex differences in behavior. The statistical relationship between mating success and reproductive success, or Bateman gradient, has been proposed as a way to quantify sex differences in sexual selection. We used a long-term data set on the distribution of paternity in the socially monogamous dark-eyed junco to examine the effect of multiple mating on lifetime reproductive success and to determine the relative contributions of within-pair and extra-pair mating. Both sexes exhibited a strong positive Bateman gradient, even when the number of breeding years was accounted for. Although theory suggests that this pattern indicates a strong potential for sexual selection in both sexes, we argue that the interpretation of strong Bateman gradients, particularly in females, has many potential complications. We discuss several alternative explanations for our results, none of which requires sexual selection acting on female traits, including targeting of inherently fecund females by males seeking extra-pair mates and increased power to detect extra-pair offspring as family size increases. Because neither of these explanations requires that increased mating success causes increased reproductive success, we conclude that using Bateman gradients to measure the potential for sexual selection may be misleading for some mating systems and life histories, such as the iteroparous social monogamy found in juncos.

Publication Date

September 2012

Publication Title

Behavioral Ecology





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