Date of Award

Summer 8-2011

Degree Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Biological Sciences

Committee Chair

Jodie M. Jawor

Committee Chair Department

Biological Sciences

Committee Member 2

Frank R. Moore

Committee Member 2 Department

Biological Sciences

Committee Member 3

Robert H. Diehl


This study seeks to understand the relationship between ornamentation, maternal effects, and behavior in the female Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis). Female birds possess ornaments that indicate a number of important known aspects of quality and are usually costly to maintain. However, the extent to which female specific traits, such as maternal effects, are indicated is less clear. It is predicted by the Good Parent Hypothesis that this information should be displayed through intraspecific signal communication. Specifically, androgens and carotenoids are of interest in this study because both are linked to ornamentation, and are also important egg components that impact offspring quality. Additionally, androgens have implications for adult behavior; testosterone specifically is well known to affect aggression. However, results from this study do not support these hypotheses. Instead, no association was found between ornamentation and maternal effects or behavior. We suggest that it is not profitable for signals to be maintained if the cost of maintenance of such traits is more than the value of the information they display. This research indicates that sexually selected traits should be looked at in the context of the organism’s life history in order to determine functionality.