Genetic benefits of mate choice separated from differential maternal investment in red junglefowl (Gallus gallus)

Timothy H. Parker*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Citations (Scopus)


Females may choose more attractive mates to obtain better viability or attractiveness genes for their offspring. A number of studies have demonstrated a positive relationship between paternal attractiveness and offspring quality. However, this pattern could be due to inheritance of paternal genes and/or it could be due to increased maternal investment in the offspring of more attractive males. To isolate female responses to male appearance from paternal genetic effects, I housed female red junglefowl (Gallus gallus) with vasectomized (sterile) males and artificially inseminated them. Male junglefowl with larger combs are more attractive to females. Females laid more eggs when housed with a large-combed, as opposed to a small-combed, vasectomized mate. Neither egg volume nor offspring body condition was associated with comb size of the mother's vasectomized mate. Paternal genetics appeared important. Body condition and comb size were greater for the sons of large-combed sperm donor males. This is consistent with the hypothesis that genetic benefits to offspring maintain female preference for the most ornate males. It is possible that greater body condition and comb size in sons of large-combed sires was not caused by genetic differences, but instead was due to compounds in the ejaculate of large-combed sperm donors inducing greater reproductive investment from females. However, females artificially inseminated by large-combed males did not produce more or larger eggs than females artificially inseminated by small-combed males, and thus there is no other evidence consistent with ejaculate-induced differential investment. Furthermore, only in older chicks was body condition significantly related to sire comb size, suggesting genetic rather than differential investment mechanisms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2157-2165
Number of pages9
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Artificial insemination
  • Clutch size
  • Good genes
  • Ornament
  • Sexual selection


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