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Mate Choice and Aerobic Capacity in Red Junglefowl

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In 'good genes' models of sexual selection, females choose mates whose genes confer increased survival value to offspring. One possible index of male quality is aerobic capacity (the metabolic basis of sustainable exercise), which is likely to be important for fitness. If it is both heritable and ecologically valuable, high aerobic capacity would be a direct signal of male genetic quality. If aerobic capacity is phenotypically plastic but dependent on health, it may provide an indirect index of male quality in other heritable traits (e.g. pathogen resistance). We examined the relationship between courtship behaviour, aerobic capacity (measured as maximum rates of oxygen consumption), and mating success in red junglefowl (Gallus gallus). We also tested the effects of intestinal parasites (the nematode Ascaridia galli) and plasma testosterone levels on aerobic capacity and behaviour. We found no relationship between testosterone and behaviour, mating success, or aerobic capacity. A. galli infection changed the relationship between mass and aerobic capacity; infected males had lower aerobic capacity than uninfected males, but only for small males. Discriminant function analysis suggested that aerobic capacity and display behaviour, together with male ornaments (comb size and colour), were the most important factors determining the mating success of males. However, aerobic capacity and display rate were not strongly correlated, and the manner by which females can discriminate among males with differing aerobic capacity is unclear.

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Affiliations: 1: (Biology Department, University of California, Riverside, CA 92521, USA


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