Brain development, song learning and mate choice in birds

A review and experimental test of the "nutritional stress hypothesis"

S. Nowicki, William Searcy, S. Peters

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

308 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The nutritional stress hypothesis explains how learned features of song, such as complexity and local dialect structure, can serve as indicators of male quality of interest to females in mate choice. The link between song and quality comes about because the brain structures underlying song learning largely develop during the first few months post-hatching. During this same period, songbirds are likely to be subject to nutritional and other stresses. Only individuals faring well in the face of stress are able to invest the resources in brain development necessary to optimize song learning. Learned features of song thus become reliable indicators of male quality, with reliability maintained by the developmental costs of song. We review the background and assumptions of the nutritional stress hypothesis, and present new experimental data demonstrating an effect of nestling nutrition on nestling growth, brain development, and song learning, providing support for a key prediction of the hypothesis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1003-1014
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Comparative Physiology A: Neuroethology, Sensory, Neural, and Behavioral Physiology
Volume188
Issue number11-12
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 1 2002

Fingerprint

mate choice
Music
song
mating behavior
Exercise Test
animal communication
Birds
brain
learning
Learning
bird
birds
Brain
testing
nestling
Songbirds
songbird
songbirds
test
Growth and Development

Keywords

  • Indicator mechanism
  • Neural development
  • Nutritional stress
  • Sexual selection
  • Song learning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)
  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Neuroscience(all)

Cite this

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