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Parasites affect song complexity and neural development in a songbird

journal contribution
posted on 07.10.2005, 00:00 authored by K Spencer, Kate BuchananKate Buchanan, S Leitner, A Goldsmith, C Catchpole
There is now considerable evidence that female choice drives the evolution of song complexity in many songbird species. However, the underlying basis for such choice remains controversial. The developmental stress hypothesis suggests that early developmental conditions can mediate adult song complexity by perturbing investment in the underlying brain nuclei during their initial growth. Here, we show that adult male canaries (Serinus canaria), infected with malaria (Plasmodium relictum) as juveniles, develop simpler songs as adults compared to uninfected individuals, and exhibit reduced development of the high vocal centre (HVC) song nucleus in the brain. Our results show how developmental stress not only affects the expression of a sexually selected male trait, but also the structure of the underlying song control pathway in the brain, providing a direct link between brain and behaviour. This novel experimental evidence tests both proximate and ultimate reasons for the evolution of complex songs and supports the Hamilton–Zuk hypothesis of parasite-mediated sexual selection. Together, these results propose how developmental costs may help to explain the evolution of honest advertising in the complex songs of birds.

History

Journal

Proceedings of the royal society : B supplement

Volume

272

Issue

1576

Pagination

2037 - 2043

Publisher

The Royal Society Publishing

Location

London, England

ISSN

0962-8452

eISSN

1420-9101

Language

eng

Publication classification

C1.1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal; C Journal article

Copyright notice

2005, The Royal Society