Papers in the Biological Sciences


Date of this Version



American Zoologist 30:2 (1990), pp. 271–278.


Copyright © 1990 American Society of Zoologists. Used by permission.


In lek breeding Sage Grouse Centrocercus urophasianus in eastern California, male mating success is strongly correlated with individual differences in lek attendance, and in the rate and acoustic quality of courtship display, suggesting that these provide cues by which females choose mates. Increased lek attendance and high display rates also associated with elevated metabolic expenditure. This paper examines the hypothesis that the ability to commit energy to display is related to the incidence of blood parasites. A single hematozoan genus, Haemoproteus, was found in 37.5% of 184 Sage Grouse sampled over a five year period. Parasitism varied across years and increased through the breeding season. However, no measure of display performance or mating success was significantly correlated with decreased parasite load among adult males. Several additional lines evidence, including numerically low infection intensities, the absence of detectable effects of parasites on hematocrit and erythrocyte production, and the seasonal distribution parasite incidence all suggested that infections were unlikely to impact male courtship display. Alternative factors maintaining individual variation in male display performance in this population are also evaluated.