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Song, stress and female preferences in the zebra finch, Taeniopygia guttata

Woodgate, Joseph L. 2010. Song, stress and female preferences in the zebra finch, Taeniopygia guttata. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.

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The developmental stress hypothesis proposes that complex songs evolved as honest signals of developmental history. I tested the mate choice behaviour of female zebra finches, Taeniopygia guttata, that had been reared under control conditions or nutritional stress. In a visual mate choice experiment, neither control nor stressed females showed agreement in preference but stressed females were less active than controls, and moved less often between stimulus males. In an acoustic choice experiment, females preferred complex songs to simplified ones, but stressed and control females did not differ in the direction or strength of song preferences. These findings suggest that quality of the rearing environment does not affect females' ability to discriminate between male signals, but could have long term, context-dependent effects on choosiness or other aspects of female choice behaviour. In contrast to previous studies, I found no difference between stressed and control males in brain or song characteristics. I calculated the relative influence of environmental and genetic factors on neutral development and song structure, finding evidence that song might signal information regarding both developmental history and genetic quality. I recorded male songs from wild zebra finches in a breeding colony in New South Wales. Song structure in this population predicted a male's reproductive success but not his morphology, or that of his mate. Finally, I summarize the evidence for the developmental stress hypothesis and suggest areas for further research. Together, my results illustrate the importance of understanding the consequences of early environmental conditions for female choice and male attractiveness.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Biosciences
Subjects: Q Science > QH Natural history > QH301 Biology
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 30 March 2016
Last Modified: 19 Mar 2016 23:32

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