Many studies have been aimed at understanding the maintenance of female infidelity in socially monogamous birds. Because engaging in extrapair copulations (EPCs) is believed to be costly for females, it has been argued that EPC behavior must bring indirect benefits to females by elevating offspring fitness. We use empirical data from the literature to assess the relative strength of indirect and direct selection on female EPC behavior, using quantitative genetic approximations of selection. This analysis confirmed that there is generally negative direct selection on EPC behavior caused by depressed paternal investment by social males. In contrast, there was no significant positive indirect selection on EPC behavior in females. A comparison between the two types of selection suggests that the force of direct negative selection is generally much stronger than that of indirect positive selection. Indirect selection is thus unlikely to maintain EPC behavior in the face of direct selection against it. We suggest that EPCs may instead be the result of antagonistic selection on loci influencing the outcome of male-female encounters and that EPC behavior per se may not be adaptive for females but may reflect sexual conflict due to strong selection in males to achieve extrapair copulations.
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