Evolutionary Ecology

, Volume 12, Issue 4, pp 427–441 | Cite as

Nest building, sexual selection and parental investment

  • Juan Jose´ Soler
  • Anders Pape MØLler
  • Manuel Soler


Avian nest building has traditionally been viewed as resulting in natural selection advantages, but it is also been associated with courtship and pair formation. We hypothesize that nest-building activity could be used as a sexually selected display, allowing each sex to obtain reliable information on the condition of the other. In this paper, we test the ‘good parent’ process in a scenario where nest size is a sexually selected trait. Thus, individuals with more extreme displays (larger nests) might obtain benefits in terms of either parental investment or differential parental investment by the partner. We predicted that: (1) species in which both sexes contribute to nest building have larger nests than those in which the nest is built only by one sex, because both sexes are using the nest-building process as a signal of their quality; (2) species in which both sexes work together in the nest-building process invest more in reproduction, because each can assess the other more reliably than in species where only one sex participates in nest building; and (3) in light of the two preceding predictions, nest size should be positively related to investment in parental care. A comparative analysis of 76 passerine species confirmed that nest size, relative to the species' body size, is larger when both sexes build the nest and that species with a larger nest relative to their body size invest more in reproduction.

nest building parental investment sexual selection signal 


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Copyright information

© Chapman and Hall 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • Juan Jose´ Soler
    • 1
  • Anders Pape MØLler
    • 2
  • Manuel Soler
    • 1
  1. 1.Departamento de Biologi´a Animal y Ecologi´a, Facultad de CienciasUniversidad de GranadaGranadaSpain
  2. 2.Laboratoire d'Ecologie, CNRS URA 258Universite´ Pierre et Marie CurieParis Cedex 5France

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