Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 57, Issue 6, pp 584–590 | Cite as

Female egg investment in relation to male sexual traits and the potential for transgenerational effects in sexual selection

  • Tobias UllerEmail author
  • Johan Eklöf
  • Sofia Andersson
Original Article


Life-history theory predicts that individuals should increase their reproductive effort when the fitness return from reproduction is high. Females mated with high-quality males are therefore expected to have higher investment than females mated with low-quality males, which could bias estimates of paternal effects. Investigating the traits females use in their allocation decisions and the aspects of reproduction that are altered is essential for understanding how sexual selection is affected. We studied the potential for differential female allocation in a captive population of a precocial bird, the Chinese quail, Coturnix chinensis. Females paired with males with large sexual ornaments laid larger, but not more, eggs than females paired with males with small sexual ornaments. Furthermore, female egg mass was also significantly positively affected by male testis size, probably via some unknown effect of testis size on male phenotype. Testis size and ornament size were not correlated. Thus, both primary and secondary male sexual traits could be important components of female allocation decisions. Experimental manipulation of hormone levels during embryonic development showed that both male and female traits influencing female egg size were sensitive to early hormone exposure. Differences in prenatal hormone exposure as a result of maternal steroid allocation to eggs may explain some of the variation in reproductive success among individuals, with important implications for non-genetic transgenerational effects in sexual selection.


Differential allocation Maternal effect Sexual selection 



We are grateful to Mare Lõhmus and Fredrik Sundström for providing us with the quails. T.U. is grateful to Emma Cunningham for discussions about maternal effects and differential allocation. Rupert Marshall and two anonymous reviewers provided valuable comments that helped us improve the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of ZoologyGothenburg UniversityGothenburgSweden
  2. 2.Department of Biological SciencesUniversity of WollongongAustralia

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