News of the WeekEvolution

Handsome Finches Win a Boost for Their Offspring

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Science  01 Oct 1999:
Vol. 286, Issue 5437, pp. 23
DOI: 10.1126/science.286.5437.23

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Researchers have theorized that the reason some species have evolved showy physical traits such as the peacock's tail is because the ornaments might signal otherwise invisible "good genes" to a potential mate. But on 126, evolutionary ecologists report that female zebra finches that have mated with males that have attractive physical attributes deposit more of the sex hormone testosterone in their eggs than they do after a liaison with males they deem less attractive. Studies in canaries have suggested that developing chicks that receive more testosterone beg more vigorously for food and grow faster than other chicks. Therefore, the researchers conclude, it is not clear whether the father's "good genes" or the mother's extra help should get the credit for any added success enjoyed by offspring of an especially attractive father.