Maternal inbreeding reduces parental care in the zebra finch, Taeniopygia guttata

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Pooley, Emma L. ; Kennedy, Malcolm G. ; Nager, Ruedi G. (2014)
  • Publisher: Elsevier
  • Journal: Animal Behaviour, volume 97, pages 153-163 (issn: 0003-3472)
  • Related identifiers: doi: 10.1016/j.anbehav.2014.09.012
  • Subject: Animal Science and Zoology | Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics

Increased embryo mortality is the most commonly cited cause of reduced fitness in inbred organisms. Reduced embryo survival may be the result of reduced parental expenditure by inbred individuals and here we tested the hypothesis that inbreeding results in impaired incubation behaviour in captive zebra finches. We compared incubation attentiveness of inbred female zebra finches (derived from full-sibling mating) with that of control females (derived from unrelated parents) and found a statistically significant inbreeding depression of 17% in incubation attentiveness. This shows that inbreeding can significantly influence parental behaviour. Despite a reduction in the amount of time inbred females spent incubating, their partners were able to compensate for the reduced incubation attentiveness. Incubation temperature also did not differ between inbred and control females. To test for the effect of incubation behaviour, we fostered eggs laid by control females to either inbred or control females at the end of laying. Eggs that were incubated by inbred females had an 8.5% lower hatching success than eggs incubated by control females and, although based on a relatively small sample and not statistically significant, the magnitude of the difference was consistent with differences in hatching success observed in the wild under relatively benign environmental conditions. Thus, under more challenging environmental conditions usually encountered in the wild, the reduced incubation attentiveness of inbred females could provide one proximate explanation for the consistent finding of decreased hatching success with increasing maternal inbreeding in birds.
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