, Volume 58, Issue 2, pp 175-180
Date: 16 Feb 2005

Male coloration and chick condition in blue-footed booby: a cross-fostering experiment

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Sexual selection models suggest that female choice is based on male traits that indicate their genetic or environmental condition, consequently enhancing her reproductive success by direct or indirect benefits. We investigated the relationship between male foot colour and offspring condition in the blue-footed booby, a socially monogamous seabird, with conspicuous and variably condition-dependent coloured feet that are selected by females. In a cross-fostering experiment, we found that chick condition was related to the foot colour of the foster father and, to some extent, to the foot colour of the genetic father; thus overall, the father’s sexual ornamentation (genetic and foster) explained 32% of variance of chick condition. These data suggest that foot colour, a dynamic sexually selected trait, is mostly a signal of parental contribution. In species in which males provide parental care, females may choose mates with higher parental ability. Overall, our data suggest that colourful integuments are honest signals of parental ability.