Sexual ornament size and breeding performance in female and male European Shags Phalacrocorax aristotelis

Authors

  • Francis Daunt,

    1. Ornithology Group, Institute of Biomedical and Life Sciences, University of Glasgow, Glasgow G12 8QQ, UK
    2. NERC Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Banchory Research Station, Hill of Brathens, Banchory, Aberdeenshire AB31 4BW, UK
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    • Present address: NERC Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Banchory Research Station, Hill of Brathens, Banchory, Aberdeenshire AB31 4BW, UK.

  • Pat Monaghan,

    Corresponding author
    1. Ornithology Group, Institute of Biomedical and Life Sciences, University of Glasgow, Glasgow G12 8QQ, UK
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  • Sarah Wanless,

    1. NERC Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Banchory Research Station, Hill of Brathens, Banchory, Aberdeenshire AB31 4BW, UK
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  • Mike P. Harris

    1. NERC Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Banchory Research Station, Hill of Brathens, Banchory, Aberdeenshire AB31 4BW, UK
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*Corresponding author.
Email: p.monaghan@bio.gla.ac.uk

Abstract

Research into sexual selection and animal ornamentation has been largely directed at males in sexually dimorphic species. In contrast, there is relatively little empirical information on female ornamentation. Using the European Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis, a species in which both sexes have an ornamental crest during pair formation, we investigated the evidence for (1) a correlation between crest size and breeding performance and (2) assortative pairing on crest size. Crest size appeared unrelated to age in either sex, though our sample of males did not include first-time breeders. The year of study was one in which overall breeding performance at the colony was poor. Females that did not subsequently produce a clutch had significantly smaller crests during the courtship period than those that did, suggesting a link between ornament size and current condition. This relationship was also significant in males. Among those birds that did produce eggs, there was a significant relationship between ornament size and laying date, again significant in both sexes, with early breeders having larger crests. Early breeding is generally associated with relatively high breeding performance in European Shags. Given that both males and females contribute substantially to parental care and that there will be intrasexual differences in quality, choosiness is likely to be favoured in both sexes, and individuals were found to be paired assortatively with respect to crest size. Our results suggest that ornament size is related to state in European Shags, and thus may be involved in mate choice in both sexes.

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