Evidence of a link between survival and pair fidelity across multiple tit populations
Culina A., Lachish S., Sheldon BC.
© 2015 The Authors. Although they have the potential to strongly influence individual fitness and the dynamics and productivity of populations, the survival consequences of pairing outcomes and the influence of current pairing outcomes on those in the future have rarely been addressed. Previously, we have shown that pair fidelity increases both survival and future pair fidelity in a population of great tits Parus major. The aim of this study was to explore the generality of our previous findings by evaluating the influence of current paring outcomes on survival and on future pairing outcomes in two different species and in different populations. We addressed our aims within a multievent capture-mark-recapture (MECMR) statistical framework, which accounts for differences in recapture rates and uncertainty in the assignment of pair status (i.e. whether an individual is breeding with the same partner or not). We applied the framework to breeding records of two great tit populations and one blue tit Cyanistes caeruleus population. We detected survival benefits (i.e. increased survival) of pair fidelity in all three populations. These were similar in both great tit populations, but higher for male great tits than for male blue tits. We found that age-dependence in the rate of pair fidelity was shared between different populations and species, but did not detect any influence of current pair status on future pair status. Our study highlights the importance of considering survival when studying the fitness benefits of pair fidelity. Some of the differences in pair fidelity rates and survival benefits of pair fidelity are likely the result of long-term and short-term demographic and environmental factors in the population. We advocate the use of the MECMR framework used here for further exploration of these differences.