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January 3 - Febuary 28, 2021

Meeting Abstract

P37-7  Sat Jan 2  Is mate switching an adaptive behavior in house wrens (Troglodytes aedon)? Turner , AM*; Reichard, DG; Schultz , EM; Davis, KM; Meehan, ME; Ohio Wesleyan University ; Ohio Wesleyan University ; Ohio Wesleyan University; Ohio Wesleyan University; Ohio Wesleyan University

The quality of an individual’s mate directly affects fitness. When mate quality is poor, reproductive success can be low. Mate switching is a behavior that occurs in many avian species that may increase fitness in individuals initially paired with low-quality mates. This behavior occurs when a pair bond is severed, a new mate is found, and a new pair bond is formed. Mate switching is most commonly observed between breeding seasons, but multi-brooded house wrens (Troglodytes aedon) will frequently switch mates within a single breeding season between nesting attempts. Here, we studied mate switching behavior in house wrens to examine its potential adaptive value. We caught 82 male and female house wrens, and banded each individual with a unique color combination to identify them while observing pairing and parental care behavior. If mate switching is adaptive, individuals that switched mates should have higher fitness than the individuals that did not switch mates. However, consistent with previous studies, we found that pairs that switched mates did not have larger clutch sizes than pairs that stayed together for multiple nesting attempts. Despite the lack of effects on fitness, the majority of pairs in our population switched mates (81%). A high rate of nest failure (33%) may have contributed to frequent mate switching, but more years of data are needed to access this link. Future work should examine differences in offspring quality and mate compatibility as potential adaptive factors underlying mate switching in this species.