Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Zebra finch offspring benefit from love marriages


Zebra finches allowed to breed with their preferred partner achieved a 37% higher reproductive success compared to pairs that were forced to mate. Researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Seewiesen observed a larger number of infertile eggs in such forced pairs. Moreover, pairs that resulted from free mate choice were more successful rearing their young from hatching to independence.

An ideal mating partner may provide good genes for the offspring but may also enhance the number and quality of his offspring through being a good parent. However, within a given species there is often little agreement about who actually is the most attractive partner. Hence there are individual preferences that may reflect the need for compatibility of the partners’ behaviour or genes. To date it is largely unknown whether the suppression of such individualistic mate choice would result in fitness consequences.

Pairs that resulted from free mate choice were more successful rearing their young from hatching to independence

Malika Ihle

Free mate choice enhances fitness in zebra finches

Wolfgang Forstmeier

Malika Ihle, Bart Kempenaers and Wolfgang Forstmeier from the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Seewiesen designed an elegant experiment with zebra finches for a cost-benefit analysis of such individual “love marriages”. Zebra finches are socially monogamous, they typically form a life-long partnership, and they show intensive bi-parental care. The researchers started their experiment by allowing free mate choice among bachelor zebra finches that were maintained in large groups of peers. In doing so, they were able to exclude unpopular individuals that nobody wanted to mate with. Half of the newly paired couples were then split up and force-paired to the preferred partner of another bird, while the other half were allowed to continue with their chosen partner. Both types of pairs were first housed in separate one-pair cages for a few months to ensure that the assigned partners form a stable pairbond, before they were allowed to rear young in communal breeding aviaries.

Forced pairs and chosen pairs did not differ in how many eggs they laid, suggesting a similar initial reproductive investment in both groups. However, eggs of forced pairs were more likely to be unfertilized, burried underneath the nesting material or simply disappearing. Moreover, after hatching, the rate of offspring mortality was higher in the nests of forced pairs.

“The majority of the young died within the first 48 hours” says Malika Ihle, first author of the study. During this period the father has the highest responsibility for caring for the brood. Interestingly, males trapped in a forced partnership showed a weaker nest attendance during these critical days.

With these results the researchers were able to show that behavioural compatibility plays an important role in mate choice. “In socially monogamous animals, the matching of partners may be particularly important in order to motivate each other and to coordinate and share the various tasks“, says Wolfgang Forstmeier.

The team analyzed more than 1700 hours of observation to find out how incompatibility is reflected in the behaviour of the different pairs. While males were equally motivated to court their female partner, females in forced relationships were less willing to copulate with their assigned mate.

An analysis of social behaviour further revealed that partners of chosen pairs behaved more synchronously and stayed closer together than partners of forced pairs.

In conclusion, an individual’s opinion about who is the ideal partner should be taken seriously, because the compatibility of pair members can have important consequences, not only for the behaviour as a pair, but ultimately for their biological fitness.

Dr. Malika Ihle
Phone +49 (0) 8157 932-310

Dr. Wolfgang Forstmeier
Phone +49 (0) 8157 932-346
both: Max Planck Institute for Ornithology
Department Behavioural Ecology and Evolutionary Genetics

Fitness Benefits of Mate Choice for Compatibility in a Socially Monogamous Species (2015). Malika Ihle, Bart Kempenaers, Wolfgang Forstmeier. PLoS Biology, Published online on Sept 12, 2015

Dr. Sabine Spehn | Max-Planck-Institut für Ornithologie
Further information:

Further reports about: Max Planck Institute Max-Planck-Institut finch zebra finches

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Novel mechanisms of action discovered for the skin cancer medication Imiquimod
21.10.2016 | Technische Universität München

nachricht Second research flight into zero gravity
21.10.2016 | Universität Zürich

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>