The environmental conditions individuals experience during early development are well known to have fundamental effects on a variety of fitness-relevant traits. Although it is evident that the earliest developmental stages have large effects on fitness, other developmental stages, such as the period when secondary sexual characters develop, might also exert a profound effect on-fitness components. Here we show experimentally in male zebra finches, Taeniopygia guttata, that nutritional conditions during this later period have immediate effects on male plumage ornaments and on their attractiveness as adults. Males that had received high quality food during the second month of life, a period when secondary sexual characteristics develop, were significantly more attractive as adults in mate choice tests than siblings supplied with standard food during this period. Preferred males that had experienced better nutritional conditions had larger orange cheek patches when nutritional treatments ended than did unpreferred males. Sexual plumage ornaments of young males thus are honest indicators of nutritional conditions during this period. The mate choice tests with adult birds indicate that nutritional conditions during the period of song learning, brain and gonad development, and moult into adult plumage have persisting effects on male attractiveness. This suggests that the developmental period following nutritional dependence from the parents is just as important in affecting adult attractiveness as are much earlier developmental periods. These findings thus contribute to understanding the origin and consequences of environmentally determined fitness components. © 2007 Naguib, Nemitz.
Naguib, M., & Nemitz, A. (2007). Living with the past: Nutritional stress in juvenile males has immediate effects on their plumage ornaments and on adult attractiveness in zebra finches. PLoS ONE, 2(9). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0000901