I. Mishra and V. Kumar

Abundant food supply is crucial to reproductive performance, as shown by restricted food availability experiments, in small-sized vertebrates including birds. However, whether daily times of feeding would affect the reproduction is largely unknown. Present study investigated the effects of daily food availability times on reproductive performance and quality of eggs and offspring survivors in zebra finches (Taeniopygia guttata). To randomly paired birds kept under 12 h light per day for about 52 weeks, food availability period was restricted to 4 h in morning (FA-M) or evening (FA-E), with controls on food ad libitum; thus, daily food deprivation period began after 4 h of food in FA-M and was continuous with nighttime starvation in FA-E. Both food restrictions adversely affected reproductive health as shown by reduced sex steroids and mesotocin levels, but not general metabolism as indicated by no-difference in thyroxin and triiodothyronine levels. Food for 4 h negatively affected the reproductive performance, although with differences between FA-M and FA-E pairs. Particularly, there was delayed onset of reproduction and compromised reproductive success in FA-E, but not in FA-M pairs; conversely, the offspring health was severely compromised in FA-M, but not in FA-E pairs. Furthermore, FA-M females were in better health, implicating sex-biasness in parental food provisioning. Overall, we demonstrate trade-off of ‘quantity’ (offspring produced and/ or survived) for ‘quality’ (how good offspring were in health) in response to daily food availability times in zebra finches that much like humans are diurnal and retain the ability to reproduce throughout the year.

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