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Study of Great Tits: Prettier Birds Have Healthier Babies

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Researchers have discovered that the look of a female great tits (Parus major) signals reproductive success. They studied two mother birds with a different appearance, and swapped their chicks. The scientists found that the size of the black stripe across the breast of the genetic mother predicts the weight of the chick at 2 weeks. The immaculateness of the genetic and the foster mother’s white cheek patch was related to the strength of the immune repsonse of the chick, suggesting that both nature and nurture affect the health of the babies.

“Bigger healthier babies are important to the reproductive success of individuals, because they are more likely to survive to adulthood — so it is useful for birds to be able to work out which potential mates will produce the best babies,” explain the researchers, Vladimír Remeš and Beata Matysioková. “..the evolution and maintenance of ornamentation in female great tits is probably due to direct selection by males.”

Source: Science Daily
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Remeš, V., & Matysioková, B. (2013). More ornamented females produce higher-quality offspring in a socially monogamous bird: an experimental study in the great tit (Parus major) Frontiers in Zoology, 10 (14)

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