Brood sex ratio and male UV ornamentation in blue tits (Cyanistes caeruleus): correlational evidence and an experimental test

Kaspar Delhey, Anne Peters, Arild Johnsen, Bart Kempenaers

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28 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Sex-allocation theory predicts that females paired to attractive males should bias the brood sex ratio towards male offspring, as these would inherit the attractiveness of their father. We studied sex allocation based on male ornamentation in blue tits. Brood sex ratios varied with male UV coloration in an age-dependent manner. For juvenile males, the proportion of sons increased with increasing UV ornamentation, which is in agreement with previous findings from a Swedish population. However, the relationship between UV ornamentation and brood sex ratio was reversed for adult males, with females paired to less UV-ornamented adult males producing more sons. This pattern fits with the observation that, in our population, less UV-ornamented adult males sire the majority of extra-pair young. To test the causality of the association between brood sex ratio and male coloration, we experimentally manipulated crown colour largely within the natural range. We created two groups of males: one with higher and one with lower UV reflectance, UV(+) and UV(-), respectively. Contrary to our expectations, there was no significant treatment effect. However, in UV(-), but not UV(+) males, the proportion of sons was negatively correlated with male coloration before manipulation. This suggests that the UV(-) treatment caused males that were more UV ornamented to decline more in attractiveness, as shown in a similar experiment in Sweden. However, given that correlational patterns differ between these populations, similarities in experimental results should not be taken as evidence for consistent patterns of adaptive sex allocation in this species.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)853 - 862
Number of pages10
JournalBehavioral Ecology and Sociobiology
Volume61
Issue number6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2007
Externally publishedYes

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