Differing rates of extra-group paternity between two populations of the Australian magpie (Gymnorhina tibicen)
Extra-pair paternity (EPP) is a common feature of the mating systems of many birds. The rate of EPP may vary between species, races and populations. A comparison of extra-group paternity (EGP) rates was made between two races of a group-living passerine, the Australian magpie (Gymnorhina tibicen), to determine if similar mating systems were being employed. The two populations had similar social structure, but differed in group size and dispersal. It was predicted that dispersal differences would have a profound effect on the rate of EGP between the populations, as the population with the lower rate of dispersal and higher chance of breeding with a close relative would engage in EGPs more frequently. Eight microsatellite loci were used to determine parentage in the white-backed Australian magpie (G. t. tyrannica). The rate of EGP was found to be 44%. Dispersal rates were estimated from observational data. Over half of the juvenile magpie cohort from the previous breeding season left the territorial group. These results contrast sharply with the results found by other researchers in a population of western Australian magpies (G. t. dorsalis). In this population, 82% EGP is recorded and dispersal of juveniles is close to nil. The results indicate that dispersal rate is a potentially important predictor of rates of extra-group fertilisations between populations of this species, and suggest that females maximise their reproductive output by avoiding breeding with close kin.
Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology