5 years ago

No mutual mate choice for quality in zebra finches: Time to question a widely-held assumption

Bart Kempenaers, Daiping Wang, Wolfgang Forstmeier
Studies of mate choice typically assume that individuals prefer high quality mates and select them based on condition-dependent indicator traits. In species with bi-parental care, mutual mate choice is expected to result in assortative mating for quality. When assortment is not perfect, the lower quality pair members are expected to compensate by increased parental investment to secure their partner (positive differential allocation). This framework has been assumed to hold for monogamous species like the zebra finch (Taeniopygia guttata), but progress has been hampered by the difficulty to define individual quality. By combining multiple measures of causes (inbreeding, early nutrition) and consequences (ornaments, displays, fitness components) of variation in quality into a single principal component, we here show that quality variation can be quantified successfully. We further show that variation in quality indeed predicts individual pairing success, presumably because it reflects an individual's vigor or ability to invest in reproduction. However, despite high statistical power, we found no evidence for either assortative mating or for positive differential allocation. We suggest that zebra finch ornaments and displays are not sufficiently reliable for the benefits of choosiness to exceed the costs of competition for the putative best partner. To assess the generality of these findings unbiased quantification of signal honesty and preference strength is required, rather than selective reporting of significant results. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved

Publisher URL: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/resolve/doi

DOI: 10.1111/evo.13341

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