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Does Brood Size Manipulation Affect Later Competitive Behaviour of Offspring?

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Data from several field experiments support the existence of a trade-off between number and quality of offspring. However, long term effects of brood size on fitness related traits of offspring have been a relatively neglected area of research. In a laboratory experiment the effect of manipulated brood size on subsequent competitive ability of adult offspring was investigated. Zebra finches, Taeniopygia guttata, were reared in small or large broods and young were exchanged in such a way that natural siblings from different rearing conditions could be compared. Competitive behaviour was assessed in two different contexts: competition for food (both sexes tested) and competition for mates (only males tested). There was no significant difference between males from small and large broods in number of succesfull attacks (after which the other male moved away) during male-male aggressive interactions provoked by the presentation of a female in an adjacent cage. Nor did brood size affect latency to eat, time spent eating or success at displacing the other bird from the feeder during food competition tests. The results thus suggest consistently that later competitive ability of offspring is not affected by brood size in this species.

Affiliations: 1: (Zoological Laboratory, University of Groningen, PO Box 14, 9750 AA Haren, The Netherlands

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