Lekking without a paradox in the buff-breasted sandpiper

Richard B. Lanctot, Kim T. Scribner, Bart Kempenaers, Patrick J. Weatherhead

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Females in lek-breeding species appear to copulate with a small subset of the available males. Such strong directional selection is predicted to decrease additive genetic variance in the preferred male traits, yet females continue to mate selectively, thus generating the lek paradox. In a study of buff-breasted sandpipers (Tryngites subruficollis), we combine detailed behavioral observations with paternity analyses using single-locus minisatellite DNA probes to provide the first evidence from a lek-breeding species that the variance in male reproductive success is much lower than expected. In 17 and 30 broods sampled in two consecutive years, a minimum of 20 and 39 males, respectively, sired offspring. This low variance in male reproductive success resulted from effective use of alternative reproductive tactics by males, females mating with solitary males off leks, and multiple mating by females. Thus, the results of this study suggests that sexual selection through female choice is weak in buff-breasted sandpipers. The behavior of other lek-breeding birds is sufficiently similar to that of buff-breasted sandpipers that paternity studies of those species should be conducted to determine whether leks generally are less paradoxical than they appear.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1051-1070
Number of pages20
JournalAmerican Naturalist
Issue number6
StatePublished - Sep 15 1997
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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