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News Link • Biology, Botany and Zoology

For monogamous sparrows, it doesn't pay to stray (but they do it anyway)

•, byUniversity of Chicago
 The 20-year study, which is reported in The , found that offspring conceived outside sparrows' social pairs go on to have lower than within-pair offspring. The findings throw a monkey wrench into theories about why ostensibly monogamous animals might be inclined to cheat.

Most bird species display some form of monogamy. Bonded pairs stay together for a breeding season, a few seasons, or sometimes for life. But beneath this veneer of monogamy, there's plenty of hanky-panky in most species. Why promiscuity exists in is "one of the biggest remaining enigmas in evolutionary ecology," said Jane Reid, a research fellow at the University of Aberdeen and one of the study's authors.

One hypothesis for this is that when a female strays she makes it count by mating with a male of higher than her social mate. The result is higher-quality offspring that have a better chance of carrying a female's genes into . This study, however, turns that explanation on its head.

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