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Biparental care in house sparrows: negotiation or sealed bid?

P. L. Schwagmeyer, Douglas W. Mock and Geoffrey A. Parker

Behavioral Ecology, 2002, vol. 13, issue 5, 713-721

Abstract: We explored the responses of monogamous house sparrow parents to deviations in their mates' contributions to nestling provisioning. Following 1-2 days of baseline measurement of parental food delivery rates, we applied small lead fishing weights to the tail feathers of either male or female parents. Weighting had much greater immediate impact on male parental care than on female care, but the handicapping had little long-term effect on either male or female provisioning behavior. When parental performance of handicapped males was most impaired, their mates did not show significant increases in parental care as compensation, nor did females mated to handicapped males reduce their provisioning as their mates recovered from weighting. Similarly, males mated to handicapped females did not respond to their partners' recovery with declines in their own efforts; paradoxically, these males showed a sustained elevation of provisioning throughout the post-treatment interval, despite no significant reduction in provisioning by weighted females. The apparent insensitivity of both males and females to changes in their mates' parental behavior, and the ineffectiveness of current partner behavior at predicting an individual's provisioning effort, fail to conform to assumptions of biparental care models that require facultative responses to partner deviations in effort. Instead, the remarkable consistency of each individual's behavior supports the notion of "sealed bids" and suggests that variation in nestling provisioning is largely attributable to factors that are independent of the mate's current behavior, such as differences in individual quality. Copyright 2002.

Date: 2002
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