Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
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Maternal effects due to male attractiveness affect offspring development in the zebra finch

L Gilbert

L Gilbert

School of Biology, Harold Mitchell Building, St Andrews UniversityFife KY16 9TH, UK

The Macaulay InstituteCraigiebuckler, Aberdeen AB15 8QH, UK

[email protected]

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K.A Williamson

K.A Williamson

School of Biology, Harold Mitchell Building, St Andrews UniversityFife KY16 9TH, UK

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N Hazon

N Hazon

School of Biology, Harold Mitchell Building, St Andrews UniversityFife KY16 9TH, UK

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J.A Graves

J.A Graves

School of Biology, Harold Mitchell Building, St Andrews UniversityFife KY16 9TH, UK

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    Maternal effects occur when offspring phenotype is influenced by environmental factors experienced by the mother. Mothers are predicted to invest differentially in offspring in ways that will maximize offspring fitness depending on the environment she expects them to encounter. Here, we test for maternal effects in response to mate attractiveness on offspring developmental traits in the zebra finch Taeniopygia guttata. We controlled for parental genetic quality by manipulating male attractiveness using coloured leg rings and by randomly assigning mating pairs. The potential confounding effect of differential nestling care was controlled for by cross-fostering clutches and by allowing for variance due to foster father attractiveness in general linear models. We found a difference in egg mass investment between attractiveness groups and, importantly, we found that all of the offspring traits we measured varied with the attractiveness of the father. This provides strong evidence for maternal effects in response to mate attractiveness. Furthermore, due to the experiment design, we can conclude that these effects were mediated by differential investment of egg resources and not due to genetic differences or differences in nestling care.

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