Extrapair paternity varies from 0 to over 70% of young among various populations of birds. Comparative studies have suggested that this variation is related to nesting density, breeding synchrony and the proportion of extrapair copulations. We used minisatellite DNA fingerprinting to examine levels of extrapair paternity in Ross's geese, Chen rossi, and lesser snow geese, C. caerulescens c. (hereafter snow geese) nesting in the largest known goose colony in the world. These geese have one of the highest known percentages of extrapair copulation (46-56% of all attempted copulations), and all of these appeared to be forced. Among all successful copulations, 33 and 38% were extrapair in Ross's and snow geese, respectively. Despite the high percentage of extrapair copulations, extrapair paternity was low in both Ross's and snow geese (2-5% of young). Extrapair paternity was not related to nest density in either species. However, in snow geese, extrapair paternity was more likely to occur in nests of females that nested asynchronously, either early or late in the season. This is one of a few reported examples of a negative relationship between extrapair paternity and breeding synchrony. Extrapair young also tended to come from eggs laid later in the clutch. Although forced extrapair copulations appear to be a relatively inefficient reproductive tactic for males, they may provide a reproductive advantage for some males.
Additional publication details
Forced copulation results in few extrapair fertilizations in Ross's and lesser snow geese