, Volume 65, Issue 11, pp 2049-2059
Date: 17 Jun 2011

Carry-over effects of male extra-pair copulation opportunity on biparental effort in zebra finches

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Whether parental effort can be negotiated between partners over ecological time and adjusted across different contexts is not well understood. We manipulated male extra-pair copulation (EPC) opportunity in captive zebra finches, Taeniopygia guttata, to test whether males adjust incubation effort to the mating context and to examine how females respond to their partner’s effort. Birds without previous breeding experience were paired randomly and bred with the same partner twice. In the first breeding attempt, half the males received EPC opportunities with ‘extra-pair females’ during incubation, while the other half did not. Males that received EPC opportunities in the first breeding attempt did not in the second breeding attempt and vice versa. We recorded incubation effort on days when EPC opportunities were not presented. In their first breeding attempt, males with EPC opportunities incubated less than those without. Females compensated fully for the deficit in male care so that a pair’s combined incubation effort was unchanged. In the second attempt, when a male’s opportunity for EPCs was switched, individuals showed the same level of incubation effort that they had previously, irrespective of the current availability of extra-pair females. This suggests that division of effort was negotiated in the first breeding attempt and maintained without significant adjustments in the second attempt. The effects of male EPC opportunity in the first breeding attempt on subsequent incubation effort suggests that individual parental decisions can be shaped by previous experience and this may partly explain conflicting results in studies where individuals’ histories were not known.

Communicated by S. Pruett-Jones