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Male sparrows with cheating ‘wives’ care less for their young

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Male sparrows can judge if a life partner is prone to infidelity, providing less food for their brood if their partner is unfaithful, finds a new study.

Researchers from the UK, Germany, and Australia have now revealed that males make the decision of how much to provide for their chicks based on the tendency of their partner to cheat.

The study, published today in The American Naturalist, followed the entire sparrow population of the island of Lundy in the Bristol Channel for 12 years.

Sparrows form pair bonds that are normally monogamous, but many females are unfaithful to their partner and have offspring with other males.

Lead researcher Dr Julia Schroeder of the Department of Life Sciences at Imperial College London said: “Males changed their behavior based on their partner. When they switched from a faithful partner to one prone to infidelity, they provided less food for their brood.” Females might also change their behaviour when paired with a less lazy male, cheating less with a more attentive father.

Biologists believe that the male birds are unfaithful to ensure that they father as many chicks as they can, while females are unfaithful with males of better ‘genetic quality’ – ones that are fitter and could produce stronger offspring.

However, cheating comes with a cost – the cheating female’s partner will provide less food for their nest of young. It has long been suspected that males know that not all the chicks in their nest are theirs, and so make a decision to provide less. But an alternative explanation is that cheating females and lazy males tend to pair up naturally.

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The research showed that males cannot actually identify whether all the chicks in their nest are theirs or not, and instead base their feeding decisions on who their female partner is.

“If chicks were switched into a nest where the female was faithful, then the father at that nest kept up his hard work providing for the chicks, suggesting they have no mechanism, such as smell, to determine which chicks are theirs,” said Dr Schroeder. “Instead, the males may use cues from the female’s behaviour during her fertile period – for example how long she spends away from the nest.”

The study followed 200 males and 194 females as they formed 313 unique monogamous pairs and hatched 863 broods on Lundy. Some sparrow ‘divorces’ occurred – but most changes of life partner were due to a death.

The team DNA genotyped every sparrow, allowing them to build up precise family trees, and find out which females were most unfaithful and who their cheating males were. “Lundy is a unique natural laboratory because it is almost a closed system – very few birds leave the island or arrive from the mainland. In the entire 12 years only four birds immigrated to Lundy, possibly carried by boat.”

Being unfaithful may be a costly behavior for females because they only lay a limited number of eggs, and it may be a hangover from when their ancestors were not monogamous, rather than a useful strategy for getting the strongest offspring.

Dr Schroeder and her team are continuing to study the Lundy sparrows to uncover how and why social behaviors like monogamy arose.

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Couples with a good sex life are more likely to cheat, finds a study

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Couples with a good sex life are more likely to cheat. Imge for representation only

Having great sex life in a relationship has been considered one of the most important factors as that would stop either partner becoming unfaithful. But a new research has found that having a good sex life only is not enough for partners as it may make one’s partner more likely to stray.

Researchers at the University of Florida assessed how newly married couples reacted to other people and found those with active sex lives were more likely to want sex with others

The team documented their sex satisfaction then monitored their interactions with others.

The researchers also found men with a more-attractive wife were less likely to cheat than women with a more-attractive husband . The authors said this sex difference is “consistent with evidence that partner attractiveness to men than it is to women”.

“With the advent of social media, and thus the increased availability of and access to alternative partners, understanding how people avoid the temptation posed by alternative partners may be more relevant than ever to understanding relationships,” the authors said.

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They found that participants who quickly stopped looking at an attractive person were less likely to have affairs during the course of the study. The difference in the length of time of the gaze between ‘cheaters’ and ‘faithful’ people was just fractions of a second.

A person who looked at an attractive person for just a few hundred milliseconds longer was 50 per cent more likely to cheat than someone who stopped looking at the attractive picture.

As well as avoiding looking longingly at others, researchers found that faithful people also ‘downgraded’ how attractive they viewed others.

The authors say that faithful people — when asked to evaluate how good looking other people were — gave lower scores than people who went on to cheat.

At a time when potential romantic partners on social media that could tempt someone to stray is high, the authors say their research is more relevant than ever further suggesting that people who really enjoy good sex are more likely to be unfaithful because they seek out sex with more partners.

Younger people were also more likely to cheat. And men who had previously had lots of short-term sexual partners were also more likely to have an affair, although the opposite was true of women.

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