Navigation Links
UCSB researchers find that less is more, for female cowbirds
Date:5/4/2012

(Santa Barbara, Calif.) More modest male displays attract the females when it comes to brown-headed cowbirds, contrary to sexual selection theory, according to UC Santa Barbara researchers Adrian O'Loghlen and Stephen Rothstein. Their findings are published May 2 in the open access journal PLoS ONE.

While sexual selection theory predicts that females should find more flamboyant displays the most sexually attractive, the opposite holds true for brown-headed cowbirds, a small songbird common in North America. Using audiovisual recordings of displaying males shown to captive females, the scientists found that the less intense the wing spreading, feather puffing, and bowing were during a display, the more sexually interested the female would be.

Although cowbirds have been studied for years, it hadn't really been noticed that displays directed at females were different in intensity than those directed at other males," said O'Loghlen, a research scientist in the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Marine Biology. However, technical advances in the area of audiovisual recordings made it possible for the researchers to investigate the brown-headed cowbirds's display behaviors in greater depth. O'Loghlen and Rothstein, a professor of Zoology, are the first to use AV technology to study the sexual responses of female songbirds to male displays.

Several things factor into cowbird displays, said O'Loghlen. For one thing, displays are typically targeted directly toward another cowbird. The display is a coordinated song and dance, with the bird singing as it puffs its feathers, spreads its wings, and bows. While earlier experiments had shown that female cowbirds are sexually responsive to some male songs and not to others (for example, they prefer local over foreign song types), this study shows that they also respond to the visual display that usually accompanies cowbird song.

"With these new audiovisual techniques we have developed, we can basically ask a female, 'Which type of displays does she find more sexy?'" said O'Loghlen.

A previous study had shown that the most intense wing-spread displays are directed at other males and are used to signal strength and establish position in the birds's social hierarchy. Female cowbirds may not like intense displays because they are generally used by males as aggressive signals.

"She may be frightened; she may be threatened by these more intense displays," O'Loghlen said.

This audiovisual research is still at an early stage and there are many questions yet to be answered about these displays.

"For example, why do males bother to display at all when they sing to females?" asked O'Loghlen.

A possible answer may be the presence of light-colored feathers under the wings of younger male cowbirds. Older males are preferable as mates to female cowbirds, possibly because they are likely to have better quality genes, having survived longer. Females may require males to display to them so that they can tell if a "suitor" is a young or older male. When a male suitor displays, he spreads his wings, showing the age-revealing color of his under wing feathers.

Brown-headed cowbirds are among the most-studied species of songbird. They are brood parasites, laying their eggs in other birds's nests, and leaving their young to be raised by their foster parent "hosts." In some cases, this can have drastic consequences for the host parents, as their own young may die when the cowbird chick outcompetes its adopted siblings for food.

The next steps for the researchers include looking for reasons why females respond to these male displays, and how males develop their display skills.


'/>"/>

Contact: Sonia Fernandez
sonia.fernandez@ia.ucsb.edu
805-893-4765
University of California - Santa Barbara
Source:Eurekalert  

Related biology news :

1. NC State researchers get to root of parasite genome
2. Researchers find animal with ability to survive climate change
3. Researchers find an essential gene for forming ears of corn
4. Researchers note differences between people and animals on calorie restriction
5. Researchers study acoustic communication in deep-sea fish
6. Researchers discover that growing up too fast may mean dying young in honey bees
7. Researchers study how pistachios may improve heart health
8. UI researchers find potentially toxic substance present in Chicago air
9. Researchers develop new self-training gene prediction program for fungi
10. Case Western Reserve University researchers track Chernobyl fallout
11. Childrens National researchers develop novel anti-tumor vaccine
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
Related Image:
UCSB researchers find that less is more, for female cowbirds
(Date:3/9/2016)... , March 9, 2016 This BCC ... future states of the RNA Sequencing (RNA Seq) market ... such as instruments, tools and reagents, data analysis, and ... various segments of the RNA-Sequencing market such as RNA-Sequencing ... Identify the main factors affecting each segment and forecast ...
(Date:3/9/2016)... March 9, 2016  Crossmatch ® , a ... solutions, today announced the addition of smart features ... multi-factor authentication platform. New contextual and application-specific ... step-up security where it,s needed most — while ... DC . --> Washington, ...
(Date:3/3/2016)... -- FlexTech, a SEMI Strategic Association Partner, awarded five FLEXI ... Leadership in Education, and, in a category new this ... year of the FLEXI Awards and the winners join ... past years . Judging was done on a set ... by a panel of non-affiliated, independent, industry experts. ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:4/27/2016)... ... , ... Global Stem Cells Group CEO Benito Novas announced that ... GSCG affiliate Kimera Labs in Miami. , In 2004, Ross received his Ph.D. in ... hematologic disorders and the suppression of graft vs. host disease (GVHD) under UM Professor ...
(Date:4/27/2016)... April 27, 2016 ReportsnReports.com ... with specific focus on US, EU, ... , to the healthcare business intelligence collection of ... Complete report on the Flow Cytometry market ... supported with 282 tables and figures is now ...
(Date:4/26/2016)... , ... April 26, 2016 , ... The European ... been selected as one of three finalists for the European Inventor Award 2016 in ... innovation prize will be announced at a ceremony in Lisbon on June 9th. , ...
(Date:4/26/2016)... (PRWEB) , ... April 26, 2016 , ... This unique ... Scottsdale and will offer attendees an opportunity to get the lowdown on female fertility ... Over cocktails and appetizers, Dr. Jesse Hade, of Boston IVF - The Arizona Center, ...
Breaking Biology Technology: