Early arrival at breeding sites can influence reproductive success through enhanced access to critical resources such as nest sites or mates. One hypothesis explaining protandry, or male-first arrival at breeding sites, proposes that males arrive earlier to increase their extrapair copulation (EPC) opportunities, which may, in turn, enhance males' reproductive success through extrapair fertilizations (EPFs) (“mate opportunity hypothesis”). Extrapair behavior is unexpected in long-lived birds, in which the male is expected to abandon a brood of uncertain paternity, because his probability of future reproduction is high. A previous study of the Waved Albatross (Phoebastria irrorata), a long-lived, socially monogamous seabird, showed evidence of EPFs in 4 of 16 (25%) families. Here, we combined behavioral observations of copulations with additional molecular genetic evidence of EPFs in Waved Albatross families to investigate the fitness consequences of protandry under the mate opportunity hypothesis. During three breeding seasons, we documented 3,661 attempted copulations between birds of known identity; >60% of copulations that involved at least one breeding bird were classified as EPCs. Protandry was pronounced in all three study years: 76.3–96.6% of males arrived before (typically, 6–10 days before) their social mates. Early arrival was associated with increased opportunities for copulations: individual EPC frequencies were higher for breeding males than for breeding females, and males that arrived earlier than their social mates engaged in the most EPCs. Extrapair fertilizations were also regular in our study population; social fathers were excluded as the genetic sire in 14–21% of families. Egg laying dates of EPFs tended to be earlier in the season than those of within-pair fertilizations (WPFs). However, earlier arrival by a male did not translate into a higher probability of siring either within-pair or extrapair offspring, nor did cuckolding males have enhanced reproductive success. Although the fitness consequences of early arrival remain unclear, these findings suggest alternative advantages of early arrival for male Waved Albatrosses.
La Hipótesis de Oportunidad de Apareamiento y Paternidad Extra-pareja en Phoebastria irrorata