Behavioral and evolutionary implications of strict monogamy. An experimental approach in panarctic seagull: the black-legged kittiwake Rissa tridactyla breeding in Alaska

Updated 2004-04-01

This project's goal is to experimentally study strict monogamy in a panarctic seagull, the black-legged kittiwake, in Alaska. It studies mate choice (which is crucial because no mixed strategy is used) in relation to indivdual quality, fitness and sexual conflict in strictly monogamous species. It is rooted in a detailed knowledge of the species’ biology and the merging of three teams (French, Austiran and Alaskan) with long-term experience researching kittiwakes. It uses the unique experimental Alaskan setting for wild populations.

Comments and additional information:

Female choice of young sperm in a genetically monogamous bird: an experimental approach in kittiwakes When females copulate with multiple males the potential exists for female sperm choice. One mechanism of female sperm choice is post-copulatory sperm ejection. Females may increase the probability of being fertilized by preferred males by selectively retaining their sperm while ejecting the sperm of unfavored males. An alternative criterion to male quality for female sperm choice may be sperm age because old sperm degrade and can lead to zygote death or offspring inviability. Our team has recently found the first correlational support for the "young sperm" hypothesis: In monogamous kittiwakes females chose their mates’ sperm based on sperm age. Females mainly ejected sperm from seasonally early copulations and retained sperm from copulations performed soon before laying. The retention of old sperm was correlated with a 280% increase in hatching failure. We now propose to perform the first experimental test of the young sperm hypothesis in a wild species.

Time frame

Project time span
2004 - 2008
Data collection
not specified
Data processing
not specified
Data reporting
not specified

Contact information

Contact person
UMR 7625, Université P. & M. Curie, Case 237. Bâtiment A7, 7 quai Saint Bernard, 75252 Paris cedex 05.
+33 1 44 27 34 20
+33 1 44 27 35 16
Other project contacts
- Richard H. Wagner, KLIVV, Austrian Academy of Sciences, Savoyenstrasse 1a, A-1160 Vienna, Austria. Tel: 43 (1) 486 21 21 31; Fax: 43 (1) 486 21 21 28. Email: - Scott Hatch, Alaska Science Center, U.S. Geological Survey, 1011 East Tudor Road, Anchorage, AK. Tel: 907-786-3529. Fax: 907-786-3636. Email:

Parameters and Media

Not specified


Regions studied

Data availability

Samples/specimens archived in specimen banks?

Methods & Procedures

Not specified

Additional Information

Is this a bi- AND multi-lateral project (i.e. a project involving cooperation between different countries)?
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