Mound and mate choice in a polyandrous megapode

females lay more and larger eggs in nesting mounds with the best incubation temperatures

Ann Göth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

2 Citations (Scopus)


Males of the polyandrous Australian Brush-turkey (Alectura lathami) build mounds of leaf litter, in which incubation heat is produced by microbial decomposition. Females lay eggs singly, at intervals of several days, over many months. For each egg, they select an incubation mound in which to lay, and they then typically copulate with the male mound-owner; mound choice is, thus, usually equal to mate choice. Freed from incubation and maternal care, these females can invest considerable time and energy in assessing and choosing their potential mates. Low or high incubation temperatures inside the mounds have negative effects on embryos and chicks, and temperatures vary considerably both between and within mounds. Here, I show that mounds with mean incubation temperatures ranging from approximately 32°C to 35°C received more eggs than cooler or warmer mounds. Similarly, when the size of each egg was compared with its temperature when found in the mound, larger eggs were deposited mainly in mound material at temperatures between approximately 32°C and 35°C, whereas smaller eggs were laid at temperatures above and below this range. Egg size was included as a factor describing female mate choice, because egg size in relation to body size is exceptionally large, which indicates considerable female investment. Overall, these results suggest that the temperature in the males’ incubation mounds considerably affects female mate choice.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)253-263
Number of pages11
JournalThe Auk
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2007


  • Alectura lathami
  • Australian Brush-turkey
  • egg size
  • female mate choice
  • polyandrous mating system

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