Mate preference does not influence reproductive motivation and parental cooperation in female zebra finches

in Behaviour
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In socially monogamous species, low availability of sexually active unpaired individuals in the local population may constrain mate choice, resulting in mating with sub-optimal partners. Here we experimentally investigate whether female reproductive behaviour is different when paired with a preferred or a non-preferred male in the zebra finch (Taeniopygia guttata). First, we assessed female mating preferences using a four-way choice apparatus, then females were caged together with either their preferred or least-preferred male. Female reproductive motivation, assessed by the propensity of laying eggs within two weeks from pairing and clutch mass, did not differ between the two experimental groups. Females responded to mate removal by either increasing their care, so as to compensate for the lost care of their mate, or by significantly reducing incubation. This bimodal response was not explained by mate preference, nevertheless, we found that females with lower baseline (i.e., pre-manipulation) incubation effort were more likely to cease incubation during mate removal. Taken together, we found no evidence that female reproductive behaviour varies along with mate preference.

Mate preference does not influence reproductive motivation and parental cooperation in female zebra finches

in Behaviour



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  • View in gallery

    Plan view of the four-way mate choice apparatus. The middle, neutral chamber (N) opens in four choice chambers (C), and a stimulus compartment (S) is attached to each of the choice chambers in which males in their home cages are presented.

  • View in gallery

    Pre-manipulation incubation of male and female zebra finch parents (r=0.79, df = 27, p<0.0001). Pre-manipulation incubation is the proportion of total observation time (6 h) that the male (or female) spent inside the nest box on day 8 of incubation. Filled circles represent couples in which the female was paired to her preferred male, and open circles represent pairs in which the female is paired with her least-preferred male.

  • View in gallery

    Incubation (proportion of 6 h observation time inside the nest) of zebra finch females on days 8–10 of incubation (pre-manipulation, male removal and post-manipulation). The male was removed on day 9 of incubation for the full period of behavioural recording. Filled circles represent females paired with their preferred and open circles represent females paired with their least-preferred male.


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