Sunday, 31 March 2013

Why Cuckolded Males Stick Around to Raise Kids

Tanya Lewis, LiveScience Staff Writer
Date: 26 March 2013 Time: 05:18 PM ET

No man wants to be cuckolded. But the males of many species actually stick around to raise offspring that aren't their own, so long as the effort doesn't cost them much, new research suggests.

An analysis of several animal studies found that males whose mates had strayed were, on average, 12 percent less likely to care for their offspring than other males. Even so, a high proportion of male animals care for offspring that may not have been theirs. They did so as long as the likelihood of cuckoldry was low and providing care would not harm the males' own future reproductive prospects. The findings were detailed March 26 in the journal PLOS Biology.

"The vast majority of species studied show some level of cuckoldry," study leader Charlie Cornwallis of Lund University, Sweden, told LiveScience. The question is, "why should those males continue caring when those offspring don't have their genes?"

Being a caring father takes work. By one estimate, the amount of effort a typical garden bird expends rearing chicks is the bird-equivalent of cycling the Tour de France. It stands to reason that male animals should only spend this much effort on their own offspring. Yet, bafflingly, research shows that males of many species continue to care for young they did not sire.

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