A female great tits’ (Parus major) appearance is shown to signal healthy attributes in offspring in a paper in BioMed Central’s open access journal Frontiers in Zoology. The black stripe across her breast and white patches on her cheeks correlate to a chick’s weight at two weeks and immune strength respectively — though the former seems to signal a genetic benefit and the latter can affect an ‘adopted’ chick’s health, suggesting nurture is involved.
Taking two mothers with different patterning, and swapping their chicks, researchers from Palacky University in the Czech Republic were able to investigate the growth and health of the infants and the ‘ornamentation’ of their mothers. They compared the offspring’s weight, size and immune strength and found a correlation between the chick’s weight at two weeks and the size of black breast stripe on the genetic mother.
Read more at: ScienceDaily.com