Dynamic Paternity Allocation as a Function of Male Plumage Color in Barn Swallows

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Science  30 Sep 2005:
Vol. 309, Issue 5744, pp. 2210-2212
DOI: 10.1126/science.1115090

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Paternity in male animals can be influenced by their phenotypic signals of quality. Accordingly, the behavior underlying patterns of paternity should be flexible as signals of quality change. To evaluate the dynamics of paternity allocation, we analyzed paternity before and after manipulating plumage coloration, a known signal of quality, in male barn swallows Hirundo rustica. We found that, in successive breeding bouts, only males whose plumage color was experimentally enhanced received greater paternity from their social mates, demonstrating evidence for flexible and dynamic paternity allocation and the importance for males of maintaining signals of quality well after pair bond formation.

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