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Irreproducible text-book "knowledge": The effects of color bands on zebra finch fitness.

Authors
  • Wang, Daiping1
  • Forstmeier, Wolfgang1
  • Ihle, Malika1, 2
  • Khadraoui, Mehdi1
  • Jerónimo, Sofia1
  • Martin, Katrin1
  • Kempenaers, Bart1
  • 1 Department of Behavioural Ecology and Evolutionary Genetics, Max Planck Institute for Ornithology, Eberhard-Gwinner-Street 7, 82319 Seewiesen, Germany. , (Germany)
  • 2 Current Address: Department of Entomology and Nematology, University of Florida, 1881 Natural Area Dr., Gainesville, Florida 32611.
Type
Published Article
Journal
Evolution
Publisher
Wiley (Blackwell Publishing)
Publication Date
Apr 01, 2018
Volume
72
Issue
4
Pages
961–976
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1111/evo.13459
PMID: 29574894
Source
Medline
Keywords
Language
English
License
Unknown

Abstract

Many fields of science-including behavioral ecology-currently experience a heated debate about the extent to which publication bias against null findings results in a misrepresentative scientific literature. Here, we show a case of an extreme mismatch between strong positive support for an effect in the literature and a failure to detect this effect across multiple attempts at replication. For decades, researchers working with birds have individually marked their study species with colored leg bands. For the zebra finch Taeniopygia guttata, a model organism in behavioral ecology, many studies over the past 35 years have reported effects of bands of certain colors on male or female attractiveness and further on behavior, physiology, life history, and fitness. Only eight of 39 publications presented exclusively null findings. Here, we analyze the results of eight experiments in which we quantified the fitness of a total of 730 color-banded individuals from four captive populations (two domesticated and two recently wild derived). This sample size exceeds the combined sample size of all 23 publications that clearly support the "color-band effect" hypothesis. We found that band color explains no variance in either male or female fitness. We also found no heterogeneity in color-band effects, arguing against both context and population specificity. Analysis of unpublished data from three other laboratories strengthens the generality of our null finding. Finally, a meta-analysis of previously published results is indicative of selective reporting and suggests that the effect size approaches zero when sample size is large. We argue that our field-and science in general-would benefit from more effective means to counter confirmation bias and publication bias. © 2018 The Author(s). Evolution © 2018 The Society for the Study of Evolution.

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