Parasites affect song complexity and neural development in a songbird

Spencer, Karen A, Buchanan, Katherine L., Leitner, Stefan, Goldsmith, Arthur R and Catchpole, Clive K 2005, Parasites affect song complexity and neural development in a songbird, Proceedings of the royal society : B supplement, vol. 272, no. 1576, pp. 2037-2043.

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Title Parasites affect song complexity and neural development in a songbird
Author(s) Spencer, Karen A
Buchanan, Katherine L.ORCID iD for Buchanan, Katherine L.
Leitner, Stefan
Goldsmith, Arthur R
Catchpole, Clive K
Journal name Proceedings of the royal society : B supplement
Volume number 272
Issue number 1576
Start page 2037
End page 2043
Publisher The Royal Society Publishing
Place of publication London, England
Publication date 2005-10-07
ISSN 0962-8452
Keyword(s) sexual selection
signal evolution
developmental stress
avian parasites
Summary 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.
Language eng
Field of Research 060399 Evolutionary Biology not elsewhere classified
Socio Economic Objective 970106 Expanding Knowledge in the Biological Sciences
HERDC Research category C1.1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal
ERA Research output type C Journal article
Copyright notice ©2005, The Royal Society
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