Early Developmental Conditions and Male Attractiveness in Zebra Finches


Marc Naguib, Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW), PO Box 40, 6666 ZG Heteren, The Netherlands.
E-mail: m.naguib@nioo.knaw.nl


Traits used in mate choice are often costly to produce or maintain, and thus can reflect an individual’s current condition. Mate choice, however, might not only be influenced by the current condition of a potential partner, but also by the condition it had experienced during its early development which can have strong and long-lasting effects on various traits. Here we studied the effects of different early developmental conditions, imposed by brood size manipulations (small, medium and large broods), on male attractiveness as measured by female choice experiments in zebra finches (Taeniopygia guttata). In three different experiments, we allowed females to choose between males that had been raised in different experimental brood sizes. In none of the experiments, females showed a significant preference for males which had experienced better developmental conditions, i.e. were raised in the relatively smaller experimental broods. Song rate was higher in males coming from small than large broods, but females did not prefer males that sang more. These results suggest that sexual attractiveness either was not affected by our experimental treatment or that males subsequently had compensated in their overall attractiveness for negative effects of early developmental conditions.