Interindividual variation in yolk mass and the rate of growth of ovarian follicles in the zebra finch (Taeniopygia guttata)

J Comp Physiol B. 2001 Apr;171(3):255-61. doi: 10.1007/s003600100174.


The amount of resources invested in an individual egg yolk must be determined by its rate of growth and/or the duration of growth. We examined interindividual variation in the growth rate of yolks by injecting radiolabeled amino acid into breeding female zebra finches and measuring the activity associated with protein in the yolks of eggs laid subsequently. We predicted that (1) there would be a positive correlation between yolk mass and the rate of uptake of activity into the yolk; and (2) there would be a negative correlation between clutch size and the amount of activity taken up by each of the follicles due to competition between follicles for circulating yolk precursors. The rate of uptake of activity by the yolks was positively related to yolk mass (r2=0.24, 0.35 and 0.50 for the yolks of the third-, fourth- and fifth-laid eggs, respectively), suggesting that interindividual variation in yolk mass is due, at least in part, to variation in the rate of follicle growth. However, we found no evidence of a trade-off between yolk size and number. The uptake of activity was generally repeatable between breeding attempts (repeatability= 0.23-0.44), as was mean yolk mass (repeatability = 0.35), suggesting that these traits are characteristics of individual females.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Carbon Radioisotopes
  • Egg Yolk / physiology*
  • Female
  • Genetic Variation*
  • Male
  • Ovarian Follicle / physiology*
  • Oviposition
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Serine / metabolism
  • Songbirds / growth & development*
  • Time Factors
  • Vitellogenins / metabolism


  • Carbon Radioisotopes
  • Vitellogenins
  • Serine