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

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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; Richner, Heinz.

In: Behavioral Ecology, Vol. 20, No. 2, 2009, p. 265-270.

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Bischoff, Linda L. ; Tschirren, Barbara ; Richner, Heinz. / Long-term effects of early parasite exposure on song duration and singing strategy in great tits. In: Behavioral Ecology. 2009 ; Vol. 20, No. 2. pp. 265-270.

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TY - JOUR

T1 - Long-term effects of early parasite exposure on song duration and singing strategy in great tits

AU - Bischoff, Linda L.

AU - Tschirren, Barbara

AU - Richner, Heinz

N1 - The information about affiliations in this record was updated in December 2015. The record was previously connected to the following departments: Animal Ecology (Closed 2011) (011012001)

PY - 2009

Y1 - 2009

N2 - 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.

AB - 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.

KW - sexual selection

KW - developmental stress hypothesis

KW - bird song

KW - ectoparasites

KW - signaling

KW - honest

KW - Parus major

U2 - 10.1093/beheco/arp012

DO - 10.1093/beheco/arp012

M3 - Article

VL - 20

SP - 265

EP - 270

JO - Behavioral Ecology

T2 - Behavioral Ecology

JF - Behavioral Ecology

SN - 1045-2249

IS - 2

ER -