Juvenile social experience affects pairing success at adulthood: congruence with the loser effect?

Mylene M. Mariette, Charlène Cathaud, Rémi Chambon, Clémentine Vignal


Social interactions with adults are often critical for the development of mating behaviours. However, the potential role of other primary social partners such as juvenile counterparts is rarely considered. Most interestingly, it is not known whether interactions with juvenile females improve males’ courtship and whether, similar to the winner and loser effects in a fighting context—outcome of these interactions shapes males’ behaviour in future encounters. We investigated the combined effects of male quality and juvenile social experience on pairing success at adulthood in zebra finches (Taeniopygia guttata). We manipulated brood size to alter male quality and then placed males in either same- or mixed-sex juvenile dyads until adulthood. We found that males from reduced broods obtained more copulations and males from mixed-sex dyads had more complete courtships. Furthermore, independent of their quality, males that failed to pair with juvenile females, but not juvenile males, had a lower pairing success at adulthood. Our study shows that negative social experience with peers during adolescence may be a potent determinant of pairing success that can override the effects of early environmental conditions on male attractiveness and thereby supports the occurrence of an analogous process to the loser effect in a mating context.

  • Received June 11, 2013.
  • Accepted July 9, 2013.
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