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From the same journal

Paternal attractiveness and the effects of differential allocation of parental investment

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


  • Kathryn E. Arnold
  • Lucy Gilbert
  • Helen E. Gorman
  • Kate J. Griffiths
  • Aileen Adam
  • Ruedi G. Nager


Publication details

DateAccepted/In press - 26 Oct 2015
DateE-pub ahead of print - 25 Jan 2016
DatePublished (current) - 1 Mar 2016
Number of pages10
Pages (from-to)69-78
Early online date25/01/16
Original languageEnglish


The differential allocation hypothesis (DAH) predicts that an individual should vary its reproductive investment according to the attractiveness of its mate. A recently revised version of the DAH makes explicit that investment can be positive, i.e. higher for the offspring of attractive males which should be of higher quality, or negative, i.e. higher for offspring of unattractive males, for example compensating for inheriting poor paternal genes. Moreover, investment can be made by the father and the mother. Here, we tested whether experimental manipulation of male attractiveness affected parental investment at different reproductive stages and thus influenced fitness-related traits in offspring. In two aviaries, all male zebra finches, Taeniopygia guttata, were given red leg rings to increase attractiveness and in two aviaries all males received green leg rings to decrease attractiveness. This controlled for assortative mating between treatments. Ring colour was merely an experimental manipulation of male attractiveness, not paternal quality, so we might expect additional investment to elevate offspring quality. Eggs were cross-fostered between and within treatments to allow differentiation of effects of investment in eggs and nestlings. Clutch and brood sizes were standardized. Both positive and negative investment were observed: Eggs from red-ringed fathers had higher yolk to albumen ratios than eggs from green-ringed fathers. Nestlings from eggs laid and incubated by parents in the red-ringed group had higher hatching masses than those in the green-ringed group. Both parents in the green-ringed group fed nestlings more frequently than red-ringed parents. Offspring performance was influenced by the treatment of both foster and biological parents, but combined effects of these different investment patterns on fitness-related traits were ambiguous. Male attractiveness appeared to affect patterns of reproductive investment but not consistently across all forms of reproductive investment suggesting that the costs and benefits of differential allocation vary among individuals and across contexts.

Bibliographical note

© 2015 Elsevier. This is an author-produced version of the published paper. Uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self-archiving policy. Further copying may not be permitted; contact the publisher for details

    Research areas

  • Androgens, Begging, Provisioning rates, Transgenerational maternal effects, Zebra finch

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