Effects of paternal care on reproductive success in the polygynous spotless starling Sturnus unicolor
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For males of socially polygynous avian species like the spotless starling, there may exist a trade-off between investing in paternal care and controlling several nests. To determine how the intensity of paternal care affects reproductive success per brood sired or expressed as the total number of young raised in all nests controlled by the same male, it is necessary to manipulate paternal care. Testosterone (T) has been shown to depress the tendency for males to care for their young, and induces them to acquire more mates. The effects of paternal care on reproductive success were studied by treating certain male starlings with exogenous T and others with the antiandrogen cyproterone acetate (CA), and comparing the parental behavior of T- and CA-males throughout the breeding season with that of controls. CA-males fed their chicks more during the first week after hatching than T-males, with controls feeding at intermediate rates, both on a per nest basis and as total effort for all nests controlled by the same male. Paternal feeding rates during the first week of chick life had a significant positive effect on the number of fledged young. The hormone treatment significantly affected the number of chicks raised per nest, CA-males having a higher breeding success per nest than T-males, and controls showing intermediate levels of success. There was no significant effect of treatment on total reproductive success attained by males throughout the season. In the polygonous spotless starling, the intensity of paternal care of young affects reproductive success per nest positively but not on a seasonal basis.
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