Postnatal nutrition influences male attractiveness and promotes plasticity in male mating preferences
- 260 Downloads
Poor early-life nutrition could reduce adult reproductive success by negatively affecting traits linked to sexual attractiveness such as song complexity. If so, this might favor strategic mate choice, allowing males with less complex songs to tailor their mating tactics to maximize the reproductive benefits. However, this possibility has been ignored in theoretical and empirical studies. By manipulating the micronutrient content of the diet (e.g., low or high) during the postnatal period of male zebra finches, we show for the first time (1) that males reared on a poor (low) micronutrient diet had less complex songs as adults; (2) that these males, in contrast to the high micronutrient diet group, were more selective in their mating strategies, discriminating against those females most likely to reduce their clutch size when paired with males having less complex songs; and (3) that by following different mating strategies, males reared on the contrasting diets obtained similar reproductive benefits. These results suggest that early-life dietary conditions can induce multiple and long-lasting effects on male and female reproductive traits. Moreover, the results seem to reflect a previously unreported case of adaptive plasticity in mate choice in response to a nutritionally mediated reduction in sexual attractiveness.
KeywordsDifferential allocation Fertility Mate choice Song Taeniopygia guttata
We thank the animal care staff for their support and P. Surai for his advice with the micronutrient treatment. We also thank S. Cowan and L. Glen for their help during the experiment, R. Bassar and S. Auer for the constructive comments on the statistical analyses, and K. Buchanan and D. Gil for their advice with the song recordings. We also thank three anonymous referees for their comments which greatly improved the manuscript.
JCN, NBM, and PM conceived and designed the experiments. JCN performed the experiments and analyzed the data. JCN, NBM, and PM wrote the manuscript.
JCN was supported by AXA Research fellowship (PDOC-2013-W1) and later on by a Juan de la Cierva Fellowship (IJCI-2014-20246), NBM by ERC Advanced Grant (322784), and PM by ERC Advanced Grant (268926).
Compliance with ethical standards
The study was carried out with the permission of UK Home Office and all tests were subjected to local ethical review (Project License No. 60/4109).
The authors declare that they have no competing interests.
- Andersson MB (1994) Sexual selection. Princeton University Press, PrincetonGoogle Scholar
- Collins SA, Hubbard C, Houtman, AM (1994) Female mate choice in the zebra finch ? the effect of male beak colour and male song. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 35:21-25Google Scholar
- Kokko H, Härdling R (2005) The evolution of prudent choice. Evol Ecol Res 7:697–715Google Scholar
- Parker G (1983) Mate quality and mating decisions. In: Bateson P (ed) Mate choice. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 141–166Google Scholar
- Pianka ER, Parker WS (1975) Age-specific reproductive tactics. Am Nat:453–464Google Scholar
- Reichert S, Stier A et al (2014) Increased brood size leads to persistent eroded telomeres. Front Ecol Evol 22:2–9Google Scholar
- Stearns SC (1992) The evolution of life histories. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
- Surai PF (2002) Natural antioxidants in avian nutrition and reproduction. Nottingham University Press, NottinghamGoogle Scholar
- Surai PF (2006) Selenium in nutrition and health. Nottingham University Press, NottinghamGoogle Scholar
- Trivers R (1972) Parental investment and sexual selection. In: Campbell BG (ed) Sexual selection & the descent of man. Aldine de Gruyter, New York, pp 136–179Google Scholar
- Williams TD (2012) Physiological adaptations for breeding in birds. Princeton University Press, PrincetonGoogle Scholar
- Zann RA, Bamford M (1996) The zebra finch: a synthesis of field and laboratory studies. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar