Maternal developmental stress reduces reproductive success of female offspring in zebra finches

Marc Naguib*, Andrea Nemitz, Diego Gil

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

86 Citations (Scopus)


Environmental factors play a key role in the expression of phenotypic traits and life-history decisions, specifically when they act during early development. In birds, brood size is a main environmental factor affecting development. Experimental manipulation of brood sizes can result in reduced offspring condition, indicating that developmental deficits in enlarged broods have consequences within the affected generation. Yet, it is unclear whether stress during early development can have fitness consequences projecting into the next generation. To study such trans-generational fitness effects, we bred female zebra finches, Taeniopygia guttata, whose mothers had been raised in different experimental brood sizes. We found that adult females were increasingly smaller with increasing experimental brood size in which their mother had been raised. Furthermore, reproductive success at hatching and fledging covaried negatively with the experimental brood size in which their mothers were raised. These results illustrate that early developmental stress can have long-lasting effects affecting reproductive success of future generations. Such trans-generational effects can be life-history responses adapted to environmental conditions experienced early in life.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1901-1905
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1596
Publication statusPublished - 28 Apr 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Early developmental stress
  • Maternal effects
  • Thrifty phenotype
  • Trans-generational fitness effects
  • Zebra finch

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