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Males feed their mates more and take more risks for nestlings with larger female-built nests: an experimental study in the Nuthatch Sitta europaea

AutorCantarero, Alejandro ; López-Arrabé, Jimena ; Plaza, Mireia; Saavedra Garcés, Irene; Moreno Klemming, Juan
Palabras claveFemale signals
Female traits
Nest signaling
Nest size
Female quality
Extended phenotype
Fecha de publicaciónago-2016
EditorSpringer
CitaciónBehavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 70(8): 1141-1150 (2016)
ResumenNest size has been suggested to be a sexually selected signal, allowing individuals to obtain reliable information about partner quality and thereby optimize paternal investment in reproduction. Studies concerning the potential role of nests as signals are scarce for avian species in which the female is the only builder. We have aimed at understanding whether males’ reproductive investment (e.g., provisioning rates and risk taking) change in relation to experimental manipulation of nest size in the Nuthatch, Sitta europaea, as would be predicted if nest size is a sexually selected signal reflecting female’s quality. To that end, we have experimentally manipulated nest size by approximately doubling its size and leaving other nests as controls. Experimental manipulation led males to increase their incubation feeding rates, and females from the experimental group showed higher levels of glutathione (tGSH), an important endogenous antioxidant whose synthesis may be enhanced indirectly through nutrition. Although male provisioning rates during the nestling stage did not differ between experimental groups, males responded to nest size manipulation by visiting nests sooner after human disturbance (an index of risk taking) as compared to control nests. Our study suggests that nest size constitutes a signal of female quality which elicits differential allocation of male resources both to females themselves and to their broods. Higher risk taking in favor of offspring by mates of strongly signaling females may denote an improvement in offspring survival chances in the field. Significance statement: Animals transfer information to other individuals through different traits. Given that nest building involve a large expenditure of time and energy for the builder, nest size may allow individuals to obtain reliable information about partner quality and thereby optimize paternal investment in reproduction. Despite the importance of females as nest-builders in a majority of avian species, studies concerning the potential role of nests as signals are scarce for avian species in which the female is the only builder. Our experimental study suggests that nest size constitutes a signal of female quality which elicits differential allocation of male resources both to females themselves and to their broods. Males from enlarged nests intensified their provisioning rates to females during the incubation stage and assumed higher risks for their broods after human disturbance.
URIhttp://hdl.handle.net/10261/155661
DOI10.1007/s00265-016-2122-2
Identificadoresdoi: 10.1007/s00265-016-2122-2
issn: 0340-5443
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