Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Sources of Variation in the Sexual Imprinting Responses of Zebra Finches
by Livio, Diane Lucille, Ph.D., University of California, Irvine, 2011, 87; 3488149
Abstract (Summary)

Decades of research on sexual imprinting have revealed much about the importance of early contact with parents in shaping the mate preferences of altricial birds. Unfortunately, most experiments have subjected developing birds to long periods of social isolation, an unnatural condition that limits our ability to apply results to evolutionary contexts. Here, I performed experiments on zebra finches reared under semi-natural conditions to investigate the strength of imprinting in polymorphic populations and to elucidate the impact of nutritional stress on imprinting response.

In the first experiment, zebra finches were raised in populations in which none, one-third or two-thirds of adults wore artificial, striped white crests. At maturity, their preferences for this phenotype were measured in mate choice trials. As expected, the strength of male preference for crested females varied directly with the frequency of crested adults in their natal population. Females, however, did not show a frequency-dependent imprinting response. Results indicate that birds reared in polymorphic populations have weaker and more variable imprinting responses than birds reared with restricted social contact.

In my second experiment, I investigated whether the quality of the rearing diet affected the strength of male imprinting responses. Developmental stress can affect other cognitive functions, but its effect on sexual imprinting has not been investigated. Males were raised on diets low or high in protein and exposed to either crested or uncrested adults throughout development. As adults, their mate preferences for crested females were assayed both in mate choice trials and in an assortative pairing experiment. Males from the crested treatment significantly preferred crested females, and the majority of males paired with females matching their maternal phenotype. Diet had no influence on imprinting response though, indicating that this learning process is resistant to this source of stress.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Burley, Nancy T.
Commitee: Hawkins, Bradford A., Yahr, Pauline I.
School: University of California, Irvine
Department: Biological Sciences - Ph.D.
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-B 73/04, Dissertation Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Ecology, Zoology, Behavioral Sciences
Keywords: Developmental stress, Learning, Mate preference, Sexual imprinting, Speciation, Zebra finches
Publication Number: 3488149
ISBN: 9781267079473
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