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Are colorful males of great tits Parus major better parents? Parental investment is a matter of quality

Pagani-Núñez, Emilio; Senar, Juan Carlos

Authors

Juan Carlos Senar



Abstract

Given the known influence of parental investment on breeding success of great tits Parus major, females should be expected to use male parental quality as an essential criterion in mate choice. Since parental quality cannot usually be observed directly at the time of pairing, it has been suggested that females rely on male ornaments as indicative of their ability to provide parental care. This hypothesis, called the good parent hypothesis, has been tested repeatedly assessing only parental effort as the number of feedings made by parents. However, in evaluating parental investment, the focus should also be on the quality of prey captured rather than only on its quantity. We analyzed feeding rates and the provisioning of different prey in relation to both male yellow carotenoid-based breast coloration and the size of the black melanin-based stripe in a Mediterranean great tit population. We predicted that more carotenoid ornamented individuals would feed nestlings with a diet consisting of a higher proportion of caterpillars. However, and contrary to predictions, we found that males with higher values of hue in the yellow breast feathers, fed their offspring with a lower proportion of caterpillars and a higher proportion of spiders. In addition, nestlings that received a higher proportion of spiders showed an improved body condition after controlling for tarsus length and other variables. Male feeding rates correlated positively with brood size and tended to correlate negatively with date, although we did not find any effect of male coloration. Our data therefore support the good parent hypothesis, insofar as parental investment is also a matter of quality, and that, at least in the Mediterranean area, caterpillars are not the only key food source.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Nov 4, 2013
Online Publication Date Nov 22, 2013
Publication Date 2014-02
Deposit Date Nov 2, 2022
Journal Acta Oecologica
Print ISSN 1146-609X
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 55
Pages 23-28
DOI https://doi.org/10.1016/j.actao.2013.11.001
Keywords Arachnids, Carotenoids, Evergreen forests, Nestling diet, Ornaments, Parental investment
Public URL http://researchrepository.napier.ac.uk/Output/2946689