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Eavesdropping on Male Singing Interactions Leads to Differential Allocation in Eggs


V. Garcia-Fernandez, Laboratoire d’Ethologie et de Cognition Comparées, Université Paris Ouest Nanterre, La Défense, 200 avenue de la République, 92000 Nanterre, France.


Females invest differently in their eggs depending on the quality of their mates. In oscines, female investment is influenced by the quality of male song. In domestic canaries Serinus canaria, as well as in black-capped chickadees Poecile atricapillus, females pay attention not only to the intrinsic quality of male song but can also gather information, by eavesdropping on male–male singing interactions, on the relative quality of males. During these interactions, overlapping the song of the rival is more threatening than alternating. Moreover eavesdropping female canaries have been shown to prefer the overlapping song rather than the overlapped song. The present study was designed to assess the effect of the information gathered by eavesdropping on female investment in eggs. First, we broadcasted overlapping interactions to female canaries. Then, we broadcasted to each female one of the two songs previously heard and collected eggs. Females exposed to overlapping songs laid eggs with greater yolk ratio than females exposed to overlapped songs. In contrast, yolk testosterone quantity and concentration were not affected by the treatment. Moreover, we found a variation between eggs with regard to the testosterone deposited in yolk: both quantity and concentration increased with laying order. Our results suggest that female canaries use information gathered by eavesdropping to differentially allocate resources into the eggs. They suggest that singing interactions could influence chick quality via female investment.