Sperm competition is a strong force on the evolution of mating behaviour of animals, particularly birds. In monogamous birds extrapair behaviour is one main source of variation in the reproductive success of males, which has caused the evolution of paternity guards as well as strategies by females to increase the genetic quality of their descendants. We investigated the importance of sperm competition in the reproductive behaviour of serins, Serinus serinus. Male serins guarded their mates and also copulated frequently, indicating that sperm competition has been an important selective force affecting their mating behaviour. Females were frequently approached and chased by extrapair males that attempted extrapair copulations. However, females refused almost every attempt by extrapair males. No extrapair paternity was detected in the population, in spite of the intense extrapair behaviour of males. This supports the view that females keep strong control over paternity, and that in this population they do not seem to obtain genetic benefits from extrapair copulations. We discuss why the presence of high levels of sexual competition may not be reflected in extrapair paternity. © 2003 The Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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