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Nestling diet, secondary sexual traits and fitness in the zebra finch

Birkhead, T.R., Fletcher, F. and Pellatt, E.J. (1999) Nestling diet, secondary sexual traits and fitness in the zebra finch. Proceedings of the Royal Society Series B: Biological Sciences, 266 (1417). pp. 385-390. ISSN 1471-2954


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We examined the effect of nestling diet quality on a suite of physiological, morphological and life-history traits in adult male zebra finches,Taeniopygia guttata. Compared with birds reared on a supplemented diet, nestlings reared on a seed-only diet showed a reduced rate of growth and reduced cell-mediated immune function as measured by an in vivo response to aT lymphocyte-dependent mitogen. There were no differences between birds reared on the two diets in any of the following adult traits: body size, primary sexual traits (testes mass, numbers of stored sperm, sperm function, velocity and morphology), secondary sexual traits (beak colour and song rate), serological traits or immunological traits. The only differences we detected were a lower body mass and a greater proportion of individuals with plumage abnormalities among those reared on a seed-only diet (this latter effect was transient). The fact that male zebra finches reared on a seed-only diet were, as adults, virtually indistinguishable from those reared on a supple- mented diet, despite having reduced growth and immune function as nestlings, demonstrates that they subsequently compensated through the di¡erential allocation of resources. Our results indicate that differ- ential allocation is costly in terms of fitness since birds reared on a seed-only diet experienced a significantly greater mortality rate than those reared on a supplemented diet. This in turn suggests the existence of a trade-of between the development of traits important for reproduction, such as primary and secondary sexual traits and longevity.

Item Type: Article
Copyright, Publisher and Additional Information: © 1999 The Royal Society
Keywords: differential allocation, Taeniopygia guttata, fitness, diet, catch-up growth, sexual selection
Institution: The University of Sheffield
Academic Units: The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Science (Sheffield) > School of Biological Sciences (Sheffield) > Department of Animal and Plant Sciences (Sheffield)
Depositing User: Sherpa Assistant
Date Deposited: 01 Jul 2005
Last Modified: 08 Jun 2014 03:31
Published Version: http://www.journals.royalsoc.ac.uk/link.asp?id=vtg...
Status: Published
Refereed: Yes
Identification Number: 10.1098/rspb.1999.0649
URI: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/536

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