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Developmental stress and female mate choice behaviour in the zebra finch

journal contribution
posted on 01.06.2010, 00:00 authored by Joseph Woodgate, Andy BennettAndy Bennett, S Leitner, C Catchpole, Kate BuchananKate Buchanan
The potential effects of early environmental conditions on adult female mate choice have been largely neglected in studies of sexual selection. Our study tested whether developmental stress affects the mate choice behaviour of female zebra finches, Taeniopygia guttata, when choosing between potential mates. In an experiment manipulating developmental condition, female zebra finches were raised under nutritional stress or control conditions. In adulthood, female preferences were assessed using extensive four-stimulus mate choice trials. Nutritional stress affected growth rates during the period of stress, with experimentally stressed females lighter than controls. During mate choice trials stressed females were almost three times less active than controls and made fewer sampling visits to the stimulus males, although we found no evidence of a direct effect of developmental experience on which males were preferred. Thus, developmental experience had a clear effect on behavioural patterns in a mate choice context. To test whether this effect is specific to a mate choice context, we also investigated the effect of developmental stress on female activity rates in three social contexts: isolation, contact with a conspecific male (a potential mate) and contact with a conspecific female. Here, female activity did not differ between the experimental treatments in any of the social situations. Overall, our findings suggest that environmental conditions during early development can have long-term context-dependent consequences for adult female mate choice behaviour, mediated by changes in activity rates.

History

Journal

Animal behaviour

Volume

79

Issue

6

Pagination

1381 - 1390

Publisher

Elsevier

Location

London, England

ISSN

0003-3472

eISSN

1095-8282

Language

eng

Publication classification

C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal

Copyright notice

2010, The Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour