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Heritable True Fitness and Bright Birds: A Role for Parasites?

William D. Hamilton and Marlene Zuk
Science
New Series, Vol. 218, No. 4570 (Oct. 22, 1982), pp. 384-387
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1688879
Page Count: 4
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Heritable True Fitness and Bright Birds: A Role for Parasites?
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Abstract

Combination of seven surveys of blood parasites in North American passerines reveals weak, highly significant association over species between incidence of chronic blood infections (five genera of protozoa and one nematode) and striking display (three characters: male ``brightness,'' female ``brightness,'' and male song). This result conforms to a model of sexual selection in which (i) coadaptational cycles of host and parasites generate consistently positive offspring-on-parent regression of fitness, and (ii) animals choose mates for genetic disease resistance by scrutiny of characters whose full expression is dependent on health and vigor.

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