Heritability of nestling begging intensity in the house sparrow (Passer domesticus)

Roi Dor, Arnon Lotem

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Evolutionary theory of parent-offspring conflict assumes that offspring food solicitation behavior, known as begging, and parental response to begging are subjected to selection and coevolution. This assumption implies that begging intensity should be heritable, at least to some degree. Although some studies have suggested that begging is heritable, the evidence for this is rare and mostly indirect. To assess the heritability of begging we used artificial selection, sibling analysis, and the monitoring of begging intensity in four generations of cross-fostered captive house sparrow nestlings. We also contrasted the heritability of begging with that of morphological traits, known to be heritable in this species. Our results show that adult wing length and body mass were heritable as expected. The heritability estimates of the visual and vocal components of nestling begging (standardized for food deprivation and body mass) were low to moderate, as expected for behavioral traits in general, and lower than previously reported for passerine birds. Our sibling analysis shows that common environment had much greater effect on begging than genetic origin, suggesting that begging evolution may be strongly influenced by gene-environment interaction, probably through the mechanisms that adjust begging response to environmental and social conditions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)738-748
Number of pages11
JournalEvolution; international journal of organic evolution
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2009
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work is supported by the Industry-Academy-Research Program of Guangdong Province and the Ministry of Education(2008A090400020), National Science and Technology Supporting Program(2008BAH37B08), and the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities of China.


  • Parent-offspring communication
  • Parent-offspring conflict
  • Signaling evolution


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