Although the selective loss of individuals susceptible to disease can favor the evolution of female preference for older males, the interrelationship between age, infection, longevity, and mating success remains poorly characterized in natural populations. In a longitudinal study of 61 male common yellowthroats (Geothlypis trichas), we found that the probability of infection with hematozoa increased as males aged from 1 to 5 years. Despite a significant, negative association between infection and longevity that partially masked age-effects, the odds that a male was infected with Trypanosoma, Plasmodium, or Leucocytozoon increased 71–212% per year. Nearly 75% of males in their first breeding season were either uninfected or infected with only a single parasite, while 50% of older males were infected with at least two parasites and 16% were infected with all three. No males escaped infection after their second breeding season. Older males were also more likely to sire extra-pair young (EPY) and, as a consequence, infection with multiple parasites was associated with a fourfold increase in the odds of producing EPY. Unlike younger males, 80% of the oldest males had a history of either surviving chronic infection or recovering. Combined with previous work showing higher diversity at the major histocompatibility complex among older males, our results suggest that the song and plumage traits that signal male age in common yellowthroats also, perforce, signal resistance to parasites. By preferring older males, females may obtain good genes for disease resistance even in the absence of any effect of infection on male ornamentation.
Oecologia – Springer Journals
Published: Jul 29, 2017
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