Female choice and extra-pair paternity in a traditional human population

Biol Lett. 2011 Dec 23;7(6):889-91. doi: 10.1098/rsbl.2011.0478. Epub 2011 Jul 6.


Seeking out extra-pair paternity (EPP) is a viable reproductive strategy for females in many pair-bonded species. Across human societies, women commonly engage in extra-marital affairs, suggesting this strategy may also be an important part of women's reproductive decision-making. Here, I show that among the Himba 17 per cent of all recorded marital births are attributed by women to EPP, and EPP is associated with significant increases in women's reproductive success. In contrast, there are no cases of EPP among children born into 'love match' marriages. This rate of EPP is higher than has been recorded in any other small-scale society. These results illustrate the importance of seeking EPP as a mechanism of female choice in humans, while simultaneously showing it to be highly variable and context-dependent.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Choice Behavior*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Marriage*
  • Namibia
  • Paternity*
  • Sexual Behavior*