ECOLOGY/EVOLUTION

Neatness Counts

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Science  27 Jul 2001:
Vol. 293, Issue 5530, pp. 577
DOI: 10.1126/science.293.5530.577d

The reproductive behavior of the three-spined stickleback, Gasterosteus aculeatus, is familiar to many biologists. In this species, the male builds a tunnel-shaped nest on a stream or pond bed, and entices gravid females to lay their eggs therein; he then guards and fans the fertilized eggs until they hatch. The nest itself, as well as the male's courtship behavior, might be a reliable indicator to females of the male's quality. Stickleback nests are constructed from filamentous algae and other plant material, glued together with a glycoprotein secretion from the kidney, whose production is androgen-dependent. Barber et al. show that the compactness (density) and neatness (scarcity of loose ends) of the nest correlate positively with relative weight of the kidney and negatively with spleen size (an indicator of immunological stress). They suggest that the nest might therefore function as a condition-dependent male ornament that is assessed, in some fashion, by potential mates. — AMS

Behav. Ecol.12, 390 (2001).

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