Testing the developmental stress hypothesis in canaries: consequences of nutritional stress on adult song phenotype and mate attractiveness
Faculty of Sciences. Biology
Behavioral ecology and sociobiology. - Berlin
, p. 1767-1777
University of Antwerp
The complex songs of songbirds are thought to have evolved through sexual selection. Sexually selected signals must be associated with costs in order to ensure their honesty as indicator of male quality. Costs may relate to the development of the neural substrate underlying song learning, which develops already very early in life. Song may, therefore, serve as an indicator of the early developmental history. This nutritional stress hypothesis has initially been confirmed for a variety of species, but recent studies using zebra finches as a model species reported somewhat inconsistent effects, and the functional consequences of changes in adult song phenotype remain unclear. We tested the nutritional stress hypothesis in canaries by manipulating either the brood size or the food quality postfledging. The brood size manipulation had a significant effect on early development, and low food quality postfledging led to a transient reduction in body mass. However, we did not find evidence that any of the song traits measured reflected the early developmental conditions, which is in conflict with the nutritional stress hypothesis. Canaries may be less vulnerable to nutritional stress or are able to compensate stressful conditions during early development. However, if males compensated, this compensation may have come at a survival cost. Female mate choice decisions were independent of the developmental history of a male. Instead, females preferred males singing longer song bouts, a trait that may contain a heritable component.