Sex-specific differences in compensation for poor neonatal nutrition in the zebra finch Taeniopygia guttata

Arnold, K.E., Blount, J.D., Metcalfe, N.B. , Orr, K., Adam, A., Houston, D. and Monaghan, P. (2007) Sex-specific differences in compensation for poor neonatal nutrition in the zebra finch Taeniopygia guttata. Journal of Avian Biology, 38(3), pp. 356-366. (doi: 10.1111/j.0908-8857.2007.03818.x)

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Individuals can compensate for poor early nutrition by accelerating their growth rates once diet improves, but if malnutrition occurs at a key stage of development only certain body structures may compensate fully. This degrees of compensation is predicted to differ between the sexes and also between species with different life history strategies. In this paper we determine how males and females in a short-lived bird species, with only slight size dimorphism, differ in their abilities to compensate for a poor start in life. Here, zebra finch Taeniopygia guttata chicks from 93 broods were reared on either a standard quality (SQ), or low quality (LQ) diet for the first 15 d of life, followed by a standard diet for the rest of their lives. Thus, the period of nutritional manipulation was relatively short compared with previous studies. Nestlings on a LQ diet showed slower body mass and tarsus growth rates than those on SQ diet but this was reversed after the diet of the LQ birds was improved. LQ birds of both sexes were able to fully compensate in terms of body mass and beak colour, but not tarsus length. Body size and beak colour are sexually selected traits in male zebra finches. By adulthood LQ females had significantly shorter wings than other birds, apparently directing resources into sex-specific structures instead of feather and skeletal growth. Thus, our experiment showed that the sexes differed in how they phenotypically compensated for a poor start in life. Males in particular invested sparse resources into structures associated with mate acquisition, as proposed by life history theory for a species that ‘lives fast and dies young.’ We predict that this relatively short period of malnutrition during early development will have long term, sex-specific, fitness consequences for these birds.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Monaghan, Professor Pat and Adam, Ms Aileen and Griffiths, Mrs Kate and Houston, Professor David and Metcalfe, Professor Neil
Authors: Arnold, K.E., Blount, J.D., Metcalfe, N.B., Orr, K., Adam, A., Houston, D., and Monaghan, P.
Subjects:Q Science > QH Natural history > QH301 Biology
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > School of Biodiversity, One Health & Veterinary Medicine
Journal Name:Journal of Avian Biology
ISSN (Online):1600-048X
Published Online:04 May 2007

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