Dynamic Changes in Begging Signal Short-Term Information on Hunger and Need
AffiliationDepartment of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Arizona
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PublisherUniversity of Chicago Press
CitationGurguis, C. I., & Duckworth, R. A. (2022). Dynamic Changes in Begging Signal Short-Term Information on Hunger and Need. American Naturalist.
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AbstractDynamic signals can convey distinct information to a receiver on different timescales, making assessment of how quickly signal strength changes important for understanding signal function. Here, we combine repeated measures of offspring begging behavior of western bluebirds with assessments of fitness as well as quantitative genetic analyses of cross-fostered offspring to investigate whether variation in begging behavior conveys information about hunger, need, or quality or has no signaling function. Begging intensity increased with food deprivation, supporting the signal-of-hunger hypothesis. However, after controlling for this variation, multiple lines of evidence showed that begging also signaled need but not quality. Specifically, begging intensity was repeatable only on short timescales, and nestlings that begged more intensely were in poorer condition. Moreover, variation in mean begging intensity was not strongly related to measures of fitness. In general, we found that begging behavior is a highly flexible trait that appears to be unconstrained by both genetic and early developmental influences, as indicated by the cross-fostering experiment that confirmed that the nest environment, not genetic relatedness, explained variation in begging behavior. Together, these results support the idea that begging dynamically signals shorter-term information: hunger and need. More generally, they show the importance of assessing the timescale of signal change to understand its function. © 2022 The University of Chicago. All rights reserved.
Note12 month embargo; published: 31 May 2022
VersionFinal published version