Wolfgang Forstmeier

Wolfgang Forstmeier
Max Planck Institute for Ornithology · Department of Behavioural Neurobiology

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171
Publications
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Publications

Publications (171)
Article
Full-text available
Germline-restricted chromosomes (GRCs) are accessory chromosomes that occur only in germ cells. They are eliminated from somatic cells through programmed DNA elimination during embryo development. GRCs have been observed in several unrelated animal taxa and show peculiar modes of non-Mendelian inheritance and within-individual elimination. Recent c...
Article
Full-text available
Culturally transmitted communication signals – such as human language or bird song – can change over time through cultural drift, and the resulting dialects may consequently enhance the separation of populations. However, the emergence of song dialects has been considered unlikely when songs are highly individual-specific, as in the zebra finch (Ta...
Article
Full-text available
Significance Most if not all songbirds possess a germline-restricted chromosome (GRC) which is believed to be exclusively maternally inherited. However, we show that, in the zebra finch, the GRC can also be paternally inherited and that the potential for paternal inheritance may differ between families. We further show that the genetic diversity of...
Article
Full-text available
Despite the ecological importance of pair bonding, the ontogeny of pair bond formation remains poorly understood. We capitalized on long-term high-resolution tracking of social interactions across replicated colonies of captive zebra finches, Taeniopygia guttata, to map the dynamics of social relationships prior to reproduction and to identify the...
Article
Full-text available
Female mate choice is thought to be responsible for the evolution of many extravagant male ornaments and displays, but the costs of being too selective may hinder the evolution of choosiness. Selection against choosiness may be particularly strong in socially monogamous mating systems, because females may end up without a partner and forego reprodu...
Article
Full-text available
Individual-specific mate preferences are thought to be widespread, but they are still poorly understood in terms of mechanisms and function. Earlier work on a songbird (the zebra finch, Taeniopygia guttata) showed predominantly individual-specific mate preferences and signs of behavioural incompatibility with certain partners. However, the phenotyp...
Article
Full-text available
The propulsion of sperm cells via movement of the flagellum is of vital importance for successful fertilization. While the exact mechanism of energy production for this movement varies between species, in avian species energy is thought to come predominantly from the mitochondria located in the sperm midpiece. Larger midpieces may contain more mito...
Article
Full-text available
When data are not normally distributed, researchers are often uncertain whether it is legitimate to use tests that assume Gaussian errors, or whether one has to either model a more specific error structure or use randomization techniques. Here we use Monte Carlo simulations to explore the pros and cons of fitting Gaussian models to non-normal data...
Preprint
Female mate choice is thought to be responsible for the evolution of many extravagant male ornaments and displays, but the costs of being too selective may hinder the evolution of choosiness. Selection against choosiness should be strongest in socially monogamous mating systems, because females may end up without a partner and forego reproduction,...
Article
Full-text available
Animals use acoustic signals for communication, implying that the properties of these signals can be under strong selection. The acoustic adaptation hypothesis predicts that species in dense habitats emit lower-frequency sounds than those in open areas because low-frequency sounds propagate further in dense vegetation than high-frequency sounds. Si...
Preprint
Full-text available
Culturally transmitted communication signals, such as human language or bird song, can change over time through a process of cultural drift, and may consequently enhance the separation of populations, potentially leading to reproductive isolation. Local song dialects have been identified in bird species with relatively simple songs where individual...
Preprint
Full-text available
All songbirds have one special accessory chromosome, the so-called germline-restricted chromosome (GRC), which is only present in germline cells and absent from all somatic tissues. Earlier work on the zebra finch (Taeniopygia guttata castanotis) showed that the GRC is inherited only through the female line - like mitochondrial DNA - and is elimina...
Article
Full-text available
Meiotic drivers have been proposed as a potent evolutionary force underlying genetic and phenotypic variation, genome structure, and also speciation. Due to their strong selective advantage, they are expected to rapidly spread through a population despite potentially detrimental effects on organismal fitness. Once fixed, autosomal drivers are crypt...
Article
In their correspondence about our recent Perspective article (Reproducibility of animal research in light of biological variation. Nat. Rev. Neurosci. 21, 384–393 (2020)), Richter and von Kortzfleisch support our recommendations for a paradigm shift from rigorous standardization to systematic heterogenization in animal research (It is time for an e...
Article
Some species show high rates of reproductive failure, which is puzzling because natural selection works against such failure in every generation. Hatching failure is common in both captive and wild zebra finches (Taeniopygia guttata), yet little is known about its proximate causes. Here we analyze data on reproductive performance (the fate of >23,0...
Preprint
Full-text available
Many animals use acoustic signals for communication, implying that the properties of these signals can be under strong selection. The acoustic adaptation hypothesis predicts that species living in dense habitats emit lower-frequency sounds than those in open areas, because low-frequency sounds generally propagate further in denser vegetation. Signa...
Article
An amendment to this paper has been published and can be accessed via a link at the top of the paper.
Article
Context- dependent biological variation presents a unique challenge to the reproducibility of results in experimental animal research, because organisms’ responses to experimental treatments can vary with both genotype and environmental conditions. In March 2019, experts in animal biology, experimental design and statistics convened in Blonay, Swit...
Article
Full-text available
Evolution should render individuals resistant to stress and particularly to stress experienced by ancestors. However, many studies report negative effects of stress experienced by one generation on the performance of subsequent generations. To assess the strength of such transgenerational effects we propose a strategy aimed at overcoming the proble...
Preprint
Full-text available
Evolution should render individuals resistant to stress and particularly to stress experienced by ancestors. However, many studies report negative effects of stress experienced by one generation on the performance of subsequent generations. To assess the strength of such transgenerational effects we used a strategy aimed at overcoming the problem o...
Article
Why do females of socially monogamous species engage in extra‐pair copulations? This long‐standing question remains a puzzle, because the benefits of female promiscuous behavior often do not seem to outweigh the costs. Genetic constraint models offer an answer by proposing that female promiscuity emerges through selection favoring alleles that are...
Article
Full-text available
In some eukaryotes, germline and somatic genomes differ dramatically in their composition. Here we characterise a major germline–soma dissimilarity caused by a germline-restricted chromosome (GRC) in songbirds. We show that the zebra finch GRC contains >115 genes paralogous to single-copy genes on 18 autosomes and the Z chromosome, and is enriched...
Preprint
Full-text available
Some species show high rates of reproductive failure, which is puzzling because natural selection works against such failure in every generation. Hatching failure is common in both captive and wild zebra finches (Taeniopygia guttata), yet little is known about its proximate causes. Here we analyze data on reproductive performance (fate of >23,000 e...
Article
Full-text available
The impact of human activity on the acoustic environment is overwhelming, with anthropogenic noise reaching even remote areas of the planet. The World Health Organization has identified noise pollution as one of the leading environmental health risks in humans, and it has been linked to a myriad of short- and long-term health effects in exposed ind...
Preprint
Full-text available
Propulsion of sperm cells via movement of the flagellum is of vital importance for successful fertilization. Presumably, the energy for this movement comes from the mitochondria in the sperm midpiece. Larger midpieces may contain more mitochondria, which should enhance the energetic capacity and hence promote mobility. Due to an inversion polymorph...
Preprint
Full-text available
Why females of socially monogamous species copulate with males other than their partner has been a long-standing, unresolved puzzle. We previously reported that female promiscuity appears to be a genetic corollary of male promiscuity (intersexual pleiotropy hypothesis). Here we put this earlier finding to a critical test using the same population o...
Article
Full-text available
It is often claimed that pair bonds preferentially form between individuals that resemble one another. Such assortative mating appears to be widespread throughout the animal kingdom. Yet it is unclear whether the apparent ubiquity of assortative mating arises primarily from mate choice (“like attracts like”), which can be constrained by same-sex co...
Data
Data for Fig 1B. Strength of assortative mating for size as a function of data source. (XLSX)
Data
Data for Fig 2. Strength of assortative mating for body size in relation to sample size. (XLSX)
Data
Assortative mating estimates from the “nearest model” (model 3). For each study–trait combination, the Pearson’s r, the boundaries of the 95% CI, and the number of unique pairs are indicated. Asterisks mark significant (P < 0.05) correlations. Note that 27 out of 32 correlations are higher than those from S2 Table. (DOCX)
Data
The process of literature investigation. (DOCX)
Data
Previously unpublished data (nine long-term field studies). All the pairs that have been identified across the nine studies in which both pair members have at least one morphological record, including repeated records from different years. This data set also includes latitude and longitude of the nest site (Lambert azimuthal equal-area projection,...
Data
Previously unpublished data (nine long-term field studies). Data in which we combined the information from S1 and S2 Data. (XLSX)
Data
Published data (Fig 1A). Excel spreadsheet containing two separate sheets with data from literature: 1) data extracted from the publications and 2) the original references. (XLSX)
Data
Assortative mating estimates with and without observer bias, temporal and spatial autocorrelation. The fixed-effect level “Same” refers to measurements from the same observer, from the same month, and from the same site (while “Different” refers to measurements from different observers, measurements taken more than 30 days apart, or measurements ta...
Data
Data summary for experimental studies on captive Zebra finches. Here, each correlation estimate r is the weighted (by [n– 3]0.5, with n = number of pairs) average of correlation coefficients calculated within experimental aviaries. Experiments are numbered as in the Supplementary Methods section. Tarsus length from experiments 4 and 5 (marked with...
Data
Experimental data on Zebra finches, including five experiments. (XLSX)
Data
Simulated observer effects. We simulated 10 million pairs measured by 17 observers, which corresponds to the mean number of observers in the previously unpublished data of this study. Phenotypes of pair members (both sexes) were sampled from a normal distribution with mean = 70 mm (e.g., wing length) and a between-individual SD of 4 mm. Correlation...
Data
Summary of the strength of assortative mating from literature data across eight types of traits. The mixed-effect model includes 825 estimates from “Web of Science search” and “Cited studies.” Pearson’s correlation coefficients of assortment (weighed by sample size (n − 3)0.5, n = number of pairs) are modeled as the response variable. P values were...
Data
Description of nine long-term field studies and experimental Zebra finch data. (DOCX)
Data
Previously unpublished data (nine long-term field studies). All available records of morphological traits which covered more than 95% of individuals included in S1 Data. This data set also includes the location where the individual was caught, the date of catching, and the observer who measured the individual. (XLSX)
Data
Models for the previously unpublished data (Fig 1C). Excel spreadsheet contains six separate sheets; each sheet corresponds to a model to estimate the strength of assortative mating. (XLSX)
Data
Assortative mating for eight morphological measures of size from previously “Unpublished data” (nine field studies, species name abbreviations in Table 1; details in S2, S3 and S4 Tables). A–C. Dots represent estimated assortative mating, bars the 95% CI, and color body size trait for “random alignment model” (A), “average model” (B), and “nearest...
Data
Change in estimates in relation to different thresholds for defining “same” and “different” for variation in time and space. Left panels: dots represent mean Pearson’s correlation coefficients (r), bars the 95% CI based on the same time (top) and space (bottom) models as in Fig 1 (S5 Table). Right panels: distribution of sample sizes (number of pai...
Data
Assortative mating estimates from the “random alignment model.” For each study–trait combination, the average Pearson’s r and the average boundaries of the 95% CI (from 1,000 simulations) and the number of unique pairs are indicated. Asterisks mark significant (P < 0.05) correlations. (DOCX)
Data
Assortative mating estimates from the “average model.” For each study–trait combination, the Pearson’s r, the boundaries of the 95% CI, and the number of unique pairs are indicated. Asterisks mark significant (P < 0.05) correlations. Note that 27 out of 32 correlations are higher than those from S2 Table. (DOCX)
Data
The degree of assortative mating as a function of data source. The overall intercept was removed to directly show the average degree of assortative mating and 95% CI for each of the four levels of the fixed effect and its significance in terms of t-values and P values (calculated with infinite df). The random effects show the proportion of variance...
Preprint
Full-text available
When data are not normally distributed (e.g. skewed, zero-inflated, binomial, or count data) researchers are often uncertain whether it may be legitimate to use tests that assume Gaussian errors (e.g. regression, t -test, ANOVA, Gaussian mixed models), or whether one has to either model a more specific error structure or use randomization technique...
Preprint
Full-text available
Genomes can vary within individual organisms. Programmed DNA elimination leads to dramatic changes in genome organisation during the germline-soma differentiation of ciliates, lampreys, nematodes, and various other eukaryotes. A particularly remarkable example of tissue-specific genome differentiation is the germline-restricted chromosome (GRC) in...
Article
Full-text available
The sperm mid-piece has traditionally been considered to be the engine that powers sperm. Larger mid-pieces have therefore been assumed to provide greater energetic capacity. However, in the zebra finch Taeniopygia guttata, a recent study showed a surprising negative relationship between mid-piece length and sperm energy content. Using a multi-dime...
Article
Peer review is widely considered fundamental to maintaining the rigour of science, but it often fails to ensure transparency and reduce bias in published papers, and this systematically weakens the quality of published inferences. In part, this is because many reviewers are unaware of important questions to ask with respect to the soundness of the...
Article
Full-text available
Balancing selection is a major mechanism to maintain colour polymorphisms over evolutionary time. In common buzzards, variation in plumage colour was reportedly maintained by a heterozygote advantage: heterozygote inter-mediates had higher fitness than homozygote light and dark morphs. Here, we challenge one of the basic premises of the heterozygot...
Preprint
Peer review is widely considered fundamental to maintaining the rigor of science, but it is an imperfect process. In that context, it is noteworthy that formal standards or guidelines for peer reviews themselves are rarely discussed in many disciplines, including ecology and evolutionary biology. Some may argue that a dearth of explicit guidelines...
Preprint
Peer review is widely considered fundamental to maintaining the rigor of science, but it is an imperfect process. In that context, it is noteworthy that formal standards or guidelines for peer reviews themselves are rarely discussed in many disciplines, including ecology and evolutionary biology. Some may argue that a dearth of explicit guidelines...
Preprint
Full-text available
The statistical analysis of allometry (size-dependence of traits) is fraught with difficulty that is often underestimated. In light of some recent controversies about statistical methods and the resulting biological conclusions, I here discuss the interpretation of regression lines and show how to avoid spurious effects. General linear models based...
Article
Full-text available
Many fields of science—including behavioral ecology—currently experience a heated debate about the extent to which publication bias against null findings results in a misrepresentative scientific literature. Here, we show a case of an extreme mismatch between strong positive support for an effect in the literature and a failure to detect this effec...
Article
Variation in extra-pair paternity (EPP) among individuals of the same population could result from stochastic demography or from individual differences in mating strategies. Although the adaptive value of EPP has been widely studied, much less is known about the characteristics of the social environment that drive the observed patterns of EPP. Here...
Article
Full-text available
Many fields of science-including behavioral ecology-currently experience a heated debate about the extent to which publication bias against null-findings results in a misrepresentative scientific literature. Here, we show a case of an extreme mismatch between strong positive support for an effect in the literature and a failure to detect this effec...
Article
Full-text available
Colorful plumage ornaments may evolve because they play a role in mate choice or in intrasexual competition, acting as signals of species identity or of individual quality. The zebra finch (Taeniopygia guttata) is a model organism for the study of mate choice and its colorful plumage ornaments are thought to be used in both of these contexts. Numer...
Article
Full-text available
Studies of mate choice typically assume that individuals prefer high quality mates and select them based on condition-dependent indicator traits. In species with bi-parental care, mutual mate choice is expected to result in assortative mating for quality. When assortment is not perfect, the lower quality pair members are expected to compensate by i...
Article
Full-text available
Male reproductive success depends on the competitive ability of sperm to fertilize the ova, which should lead to strong selection on sperm characteristics. This raises the question of how heritable variation in sperm traits is maintained. Here we show that in zebra finches (Taeniopygia guttata) nearly half of the variance in sperm morphology is exp...
Article
Full-text available
In species with biparental care and lifetime monogamy, the fecundity of a male's partner can be a major component of his fitness but it is unclear whether males can assess female fecundity before breeding. We carried out an experiment in which we measured variation in female fecundity (repeatability 39%, 213 females) in a captive zebra finch popula...
Article
Full-text available
The phenotype-linked fertility hypothesis suggests that females can judge male fertility by inspecting male phenotypic traits. This is because male sexually selected traits might correlate with sperm quality if both are sensitive to factors that influence male condition. A recent meta-analysis found little support for this hypothesis, suggesting li...
Article
Full-text available
Identifying causal genetic variants underlying heritable phenotypic variation is a longstanding goal in evolutionary genetics. We previously identified several quantitative trait loci (QTL) for five morphological traits in a captive population of zebra finches (Taeniopygia guttata) by whole-genome linkage mapping. We here follow up on these studies...