Hatching asynchrony and growth trade-offs within domesticated and wild zebra finch, Taeniopygia guttata, broods

Mark C. Mainwaring*, Ian R. Hartley, Amanda J. Gilby, Simon C. Griffith

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)


The Australian zebra finch, Taeniopygia guttata, is a widely used model organism, yet few studies have compared domesticated and wild birds with the aim of examining its relevance as an evolutionary model species. Domestic and wild broods hatch over approximately 4 and 2 days, respectively, which is important given that nestlings can fledge after as little as 12 days, although 16-18 days is common. We aimed to evaluate the extent to which the greater hatching asynchrony in domestic stock may effect reproductive success through greater variance in size hierarchies, variance in within-brood growth rates, and partial brood mortality. Therefore, by simultaneously controlling brood sizes and experimentally manipulating hatching intervals in both domesticated and wild birds, we investigated the consequences of hatching intervals for fledging success and nestling growth patterns, as well as trade-offs. Fledging success was similarly high in domestic and wild broods of either hatching pattern. Nonetheless, between-brood analyses revealed that domestic nestlings had significantly higher masses, larger skeletal characters, and longer wings than their wild counterparts, although wild nestlings had comparable wing lengths at the pre-fledging stage. Moreover, within-brood analyses revealed only negligible differences between domestic and wild nestlings, and larger effects of hatching order and hatching pattern. Therefore, despite significant differences in the hatching intervals, and the ultimate size achieved by nestlings, the domestication process does not appear to have significantly altered nestling growth trade-offs. The present study provides reassuring evidence that studies involving domesticated zebra finches, or other domesticated model organisms, may provide reasonable adaptive explanations in behavioural and evolutionary ecology.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)763-773
Number of pages11
JournalBiological Journal of the Linnean Society
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2010


  • developmental resource allocation
  • domestication
  • maternal effects
  • Taeniopygia guttata


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