Variation in Reproductive Success Across Captive Populations:Methodological Differences, Potential Biases and Opportunities

Griffith, Simon C. and Crino, Ondi L. and Andrew, Samuel C. and Nomano, Fumiaki Y. and Adkins-Regan, Elizabeth and Alonso-Alvarez, Carlos and Bailey, Ida E. and Bittner, Stephanie S. and Bolton, Peri E. and Boner, Winnie and Boogert, Neeltje and Boucaud, Ingrid C.A. and Briga, Michael and Buchanan, Katherine L. and Caspers, Barbara A. and Cichoń, Mariusz and Clayton, David F. and Derégnaucourt, Sebastien and Forstmeier, Wolfgang and Guillette, Lauren M. and Hartley, Ian R. and Healy, Susan D. and Hill, Davina L. and Holveck, Marie Jeanne and Hurley, Laura L. and Ihle, Malika and Tobias Krause, E. and Mainwaring, Mark C. and Marasco, Valeria and Mariette, Mylene M. and Martin-Wintle, Meghan S. and McCowan, Luke S.C. and McMahon, Maeve and Monaghan, Pat and Nager, Ruedi G. and Naguib, Marc and Nord, Andreas and Potvin, Dominique A. and Prior, Nora H. and Riebel, Katharina and Romero-Haro, Ana A. and Royle, Nick J. and Rutkowska, Joanna and Schuett, Wiebke and Swaddle, John P. and Tobler, Michael and Trompf, Larissa and Varian-Ramos, Claire W. and Vignal, Clémentine and Villain, Avelyne S. (2017) Variation in Reproductive Success Across Captive Populations:Methodological Differences, Potential Biases and Opportunities. Ethology, 123 (1). pp. 1-29. ISSN 0179-1613

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Our understanding of fundamental organismal biology has been disproportionately influenced by studies of a relatively small number of ‘model’ species extensively studied in captivity. Laboratory populations of model species are commonly subject to a number of forms of past and current selection that may affect experimental outcomes. Here, we examine these processes and their outcomes in one of the most widely used vertebrate species in the laboratory – the zebra finch (Taeniopygia guttata). This important model species is used for research across a broad range of fields, partly due to the ease with which it can be bred in captivity. However despite this perceived amenability, we demonstrate extensive variation in the success with which different laboratories and studies bred their subjects, and overall only 64% of all females that were given the opportunity, bred successfully in the laboratory. We identify and review several environmental, husbandry, life-history and behavioural factors that potentially contribute to this variation. The variation in reproductive success across individuals could lead to biases in experimental outcomes and drive some of the heterogeneity in research outcomes across studies. The zebra finch remains an excellent captive animal system and our aim is to sharpen the insight that future studies of this species can provide, both to our understanding of this species and also with respect to the reproduction of captive animals more widely. We hope to improve systematic reporting methods and that further investigation of the issues we raise will lead both to advances in our fundamental understanding of avian reproduction as well as to improvements in future welfare and experimental efficiency.

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09 Dec 2019 13:55
Last Modified:
19 Sep 2023 02:03