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Effects of Male Aggressiveness On Behavioural Transitions in the Reproductive Cycle of the Barbary Dove

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The initial courtship of the male Barbary dove consists of aggressive courtship (chasing and bowing) and nest-orientated courtship (nest soliciting). During the pre-oviposition phase of the reproductive cycle, transitions occur in the behaviour of both the male and the female which result in the decline and disappearance of courtship and the development of behaviour involved in the construction of a nest. The object of the present study was establish the effects of male aggressive courtship on female behavioural and reproductive development during the cycle. Males which had either displayed aggressive courtship unaccompanied by nest-orientated courtship (P males) or both aggressive and nest-orientated courtship (PS males) in pre-pairing tets were paired continuously with females known to have shown similar behavioural responses to male courtship. The temporal sequence of behavioural transitions was compared between the two groups. The reproductive cycles of the females paired with P males were significantly delayed, in terms of latency to oviposition, relative to those of females paired with PS males. Thus the latency to the laying of the first egg was significantly shorter in the PS group (median, 5.25 days) than in the P group (median, 8.0 days). There were behavioural differences between P and PS groups throughout the pre-oviposition phase of the cycle, these were particularly evident immediately after pairing. Females paired with P males were subjected to markedly higher levels of both chasing and bowing on the first day after pairing, high levels of aggressive courtship were sustained for a longer period during the cycle than in the PS group. Male nest soliciting did not differ substantially between the groups. Despite a demonstrated capacity of females of both groups to display nest soliciting in pre-pairing tests, females paired with P males showed almost no nest soliciting response to the displays of the male. However, females paired with PS males displayed nest soliciting during the first day of pairing. Nesting behaviour also differed between the groups. Thus, P males tended to occupy the nest site and display nest sitting. When nest construction finally occurred, P males spent little time gathering nesting material. By contrast, females paired with PS males rapidly established themselves at the nest site and displayed nest sitting. PS males spent more time gathering nesting material than P males. Elaborate nests were constructed by the majority of the PS group. Sustained male aggressive displays, characteristic of the P group, appear to delay both the appearance of female behaviour which normally follows the initial courtship phase, and oviposition. Thus the latency to termination of chasing and bowing is positively correlated with the latency to termination of female nest soliciting. Similarly, the latency to termination of chasing is directly related to the onset and peak displays of female nest sitting, and latency to oviposition. It can be suggested that a major effect of sustained male aggressiveness is to delay the initiation of components of female nesting behaviour which are in turn closely related to female reproductive development.

Affiliations: 1: M.R.C. Unit on the Development and Integration of Behaviour, University Sub-Department, Madingley, Cambridge, England

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