Lowly females pick mediocre mates
- 8 October 2009 07:53 UK
Lowly females pick mediocre matesBy Victoria GillScience reporter, BBC NewsThe females seem to know what "quality category" they are in
Low-quality females prefer low-quality males, at least in the avian world.
This is according to research published in the Royal Society journal Proceedings B, testing female zebra finches' taste in males.
As adults, the low-quality females showed a preference for the songs of males of the same quality, and for the male birds themselves.
Evolutionary biologists previously thought that females would always opt for the best male available.
The study was led by Marie-Jeanne Holveck from the Centre of Functional and Evolutionary Ecology in Montpellier, France.
She explained that low- and high-quality birds differ in almost every important characteristic, including metabolism, longevity and attractiveness.The two individuals just accept each other faster - they just go for itMarie-Jeanne Holveck
Her team was able to breed high-quality and low-quality finches simply by changing the size of the brood in which the birds were raised.
In larger broods there is more competition between the chicks, she told BBC News, "so the larger groups produce lower quality chicks".
Dr Holveck's team tested the female chicks' preferences for males.
"We trained in what we call an operant cage. They were trained to peck two keys, and each time they pecked a key it played a male's song," she told BBC News.
One of the keys played the song of a high-quality male and the other played a low-quality male's song.
"I think this is a powerful test, because it's the female telling us what she would like to hear," said Dr Holveck.