Molecular techniques have revealed that avian mating systems are more diverse and complex than previously thought. We used microsatellite markers to determine genetic parentage, the prevalence of extrapair paternity and quasi-parasitism (i.e. situations where a male's extrapair mate lay in his nest) in a socially monogamous population of three-toed woodpeckers (Picoides tridactylus) in southern Finland. A total of 129 adults and nestlings, representing 5-9 families annually from 2004-2007, were genotyped at up to ten microsatellite loci. The results of genetic assignment tests confirmed that monogamous parentage characterized the majority (84.6%, 22/26) of broods, and that most (93.8%, 75/80) nestlings were the offspring of their social parents. Two of 80 nestlings (2.5%) in two of 26 broods (7.7%) were sired by extrapair males and quasi-parasitism occurred in 3.8% (3/80) of nestlings and 7.7% (2/26) of broods. Hence, the levels of extrapair parentage were low, possibly because both genetic polygyny and polyandry are constrained by the high paternal effort required for parental care. The co-occurrence of low levels of extrapair paternity and quasi-parasitism are discussed in light of ecological and behavioural factors characterizing the species biology. © 2009 Li et al.
Li, M. H., Välimäki, K., Piha, M., Pakkala, T., & Merilä, J. (2009). Extrapair paternity and maternity in the three-toed woodpecker, Picoides tridactylus: Insights from microsatellite-based parentage analysis. PLoS ONE, 4(11). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0007895