Golden-collared manakins (Manacus vitellinus) live in Panama, Colombia and Costa Rica. For the research, Barske spent three months in a rainforest near Gamboa, a town along the Panama Canal, not far from Panama City. She observed the birds for several hours daily, filmed 18 male birds with high-speed video and ultrahigh-speed cameras that produced 125 images per second, and recorded their courtship success.
Barske can tell the birds apart from their leg rings and the location of their display arenas. Golden-collared manakins live up to 14 years in the wild.
During the courtship dance, several males gather together in a small area, and each jumps from small tree to small tree while making a fast, powerful, loud snapping sound with his wings. He also does this wing-snap while perched. When the male lands on a perch, he rapidly turns to expose his feathers to the female.
It is "intense, physically elaborate, complex, accurate, fast behavior," Schlinger said.
The male performs these feats "not necessarily because he wants to, but because that's what the female rewards," Schlinger said. "If the female rewards a slightly faster behavior, then the males will get faster. We propose that elaborate, acrobatic courtship dances evolve because they reflect the motor skills and cardiovascular function of males."
During the six-month breeding season, a female will observe a group of four to six males "the patch of forest erupts in sound," Schlinger said and choose one to mate with. The male offers no help in raising the offspring.
Co-authors of the study are Leonida Fusani, a faculty member in the department of biology and evolution at Italy's University of Ferrara and a former postdoctoral scholar under Schlinger, and Ma
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University of California - Los Angeles