The adaptive function of female extrapair mating in socially monogamous passerines is currently debated. In the bluethroat (Luscinia s. svecica), a previous study showed that offspring sired by extrapair males had a higher cell-mediated immunity than their within-pair half siblings, suggesting an immunogenetic benefit of extrapair mating in this species. Here, we expanded that dataset with two more years and investigated the association between extrapair paternity and microsatellite multilocus heterozygosity, in addition to cell-mediated immunity. We found that extrapair offspring were more heterozygous than their within-pair half siblings, and corroborated the previous finding of enhanced cellular immunity in extrapair offspring in this four-year dataset. The increased heterozygosity among extrapair offspring appeared to be a result of extrapair mates being less genetically similar than pair mates, and also less genetically similar than expected by random choice. Together with previous findings in this species, showing that the majority of females participate in extrapair copulations, our results indicate a postcopulatory cryptic female choice of genetically dissimilar males. The enhanced cellular immunity and increased heterozygosity were not related to each other, and hence our results indicate two independent genetic benefits of extrapair mating in the bluethroat.
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Vol. 62 • No. 1