Sex-biased investment in yolk androgens depends on female quality and laying order in zebra finches (Taeniopygia guttata)

L Gilbert, Alison Rutstein, N Hazon, J A Graves

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Citations (Scopus)


The Trivers - Willard hypothesis predicts sex biases in parental investment according to parental condition. In addition, parents may need to sex bias their investment if there is an asymmetry between the sexes in offspring fitness under different conditions. For studying maternal differential investment, egg resources are ideal subjects because they are self contained and allocated unequivocally by the female. Recent studies show that yolk androgens can be beneficial to offspring, so here we test for sex-biased investment with maternal investment of yolk testosterone ( T) in zebra finch (Taeniopygia guttata) eggs. From the Trivers - Willard hypothesis, we predicted females to invest more in male eggs in optimum circumstances ( e. g. good-condition mother, early-laid egg), and more in female eggs under suboptimal conditions ( e. g. poor-condition mother, late-laid egg). This latter prediction is also because in this species there is a female nestling disadvantage in poor conditions and we expected mothers to help compensate for this in female eggs. Indeed, we found more yolk T in female than male eggs. Moreover, in accordance with our predictions, yolk T in male eggs increased with maternal quality relative to female eggs, and decreased with laying order relative to female eggs. This supports our predictions for the different needs and value of male and female offspring in zebra finches. Our results support the idea that females may use yolk androgens as a tool to adaptively manipulate the inequalities between different nestlings.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)178-181
Number of pages4
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2005


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