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Long-term effects of early parasite exposure on song duration and singing strategy in great tits

Bischoff, Linda L.; Tschirren, Barbara LU and Richner, Heinz (2009) In Behavioral Ecology 20(2). p.265-270
Abstract
Song is a sexually selected trait in many bird species and has been suggested to function as a signal of a male's health and parasite resistance. Here we present an experimental field study on the long-term effects of parasite exposure early in life on adult bird song. We exposed nestling great tits (Parus major) to ectoparasitic hen fleas (Ceratophyllus gallinae) and on their recruitment into the local breeding population assessed the response to a playback of a challenging male in their breeding territory. We show, to our knowledge for the first time in a wild bird population, that parasite exposure early in life affects bird song: song duration of males that were exposed to parasites early in life was reduced by 32% compared with males... (More)
Song is a sexually selected trait in many bird species and has been suggested to function as a signal of a male's health and parasite resistance. Here we present an experimental field study on the long-term effects of parasite exposure early in life on adult bird song. We exposed nestling great tits (Parus major) to ectoparasitic hen fleas (Ceratophyllus gallinae) and on their recruitment into the local breeding population assessed the response to a playback of a challenging male in their breeding territory. We show, to our knowledge for the first time in a wild bird population, that parasite exposure early in life affects bird song: song duration of males that were exposed to parasites early in life was reduced by 32% compared with males that grew up in a flea-free environment. Early parasite exposure also significantly reduced the degree of song overlap with the playback, which has been shown to correlate with social status. There was no effect of early parasite exposure on the number of different song types sung or on the latency until the males started the vocal response to the playback. These results suggest that mates or rivals can use song duration and song overlap as proxies for an individual's exposure to parasites early in life. It thereby highlights both the importance of parasites in maintaining honesty of sexually selected traits and the costs of parasitism in terms of reduced attractiveness and competitiveness. (Less)
Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:
author
organization
publishing date
type
Contribution to journal
publication status
published
subject
keywords
sexual selection, developmental stress hypothesis, bird song, ectoparasites, signaling, honest, Parus major
in
Behavioral Ecology
volume
20
issue
2
pages
265 - 270
publisher
Oxford University Press
external identifiers
  • wos:000264387700006
  • scopus:64949123117
ISSN
1045-2249
DOI
10.1093/beheco/arp012
language
English
LU publication?
yes
id
ccb446c5-bc7c-4d18-b647-9cffd9d17fc3 (old id 1401636)
date added to LUP
2009-06-15 10:56:03
date last changed
2017-09-03 04:05:10
@article{ccb446c5-bc7c-4d18-b647-9cffd9d17fc3,
  abstract     = {Song is a sexually selected trait in many bird species and has been suggested to function as a signal of a male's health and parasite resistance. Here we present an experimental field study on the long-term effects of parasite exposure early in life on adult bird song. We exposed nestling great tits (Parus major) to ectoparasitic hen fleas (Ceratophyllus gallinae) and on their recruitment into the local breeding population assessed the response to a playback of a challenging male in their breeding territory. We show, to our knowledge for the first time in a wild bird population, that parasite exposure early in life affects bird song: song duration of males that were exposed to parasites early in life was reduced by 32% compared with males that grew up in a flea-free environment. Early parasite exposure also significantly reduced the degree of song overlap with the playback, which has been shown to correlate with social status. There was no effect of early parasite exposure on the number of different song types sung or on the latency until the males started the vocal response to the playback. These results suggest that mates or rivals can use song duration and song overlap as proxies for an individual's exposure to parasites early in life. It thereby highlights both the importance of parasites in maintaining honesty of sexually selected traits and the costs of parasitism in terms of reduced attractiveness and competitiveness.},
  author       = {Bischoff, Linda L. and Tschirren, Barbara and Richner, Heinz},
  issn         = {1045-2249},
  keyword      = {sexual selection,developmental stress hypothesis,bird song,ectoparasites,signaling,honest,Parus major},
  language     = {eng},
  number       = {2},
  pages        = {265--270},
  publisher    = {Oxford University Press},
  series       = {Behavioral Ecology},
  title        = {Long-term effects of early parasite exposure on song duration and singing strategy in great tits},
  url          = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/beheco/arp012},
  volume       = {20},
  year         = {2009},
}