A recent study on zebra finches suggests that there may be more to finding the perfect mate than just good genes in the animal kingdom.
Researchers found that the little birds tend to have more babies when they are allowed to look for the right partner than when they are forced to stay in an “arranged marriage.” Past studies had shown that animal reproduction was quite simple – choosing the partner with the best set of genes and passing those genes on to many offspring.
But humans know that genes do not play the key role in finding a partner. Love does. And so seem to happen in zebra finches’ case.
Researchers based their study on these birds because they share a lot of traits with humans. They are monogamous and both partners take turns in raising babies. Scientists learned that female zebra finches are very picky when they look for the right mate.
While other female animals choose the partners that have the most impressive horns or colorful plumage, female zebra finches stick with a partner that meets some demands that have nothing to do with good genes or looks.
A research team from the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Germany conducted the recent study on 160 zebra finches. Half of the birds were allowed to choose their partner, while the other half were forced into arranged partnerships.
In forced pairs, scientists used only males that were tagged as ‘attractive’ by at least one female zebra finch to make sure that they didn’t pair a female with a male that no other female wanted.
The team learned that attraction was a key factor to healthy and successful families in zebra finches, too. The birds that were allowed to choose their pairs had more and healthier babies than those in forced pairs.
Additionally, chicks from voluntary pairs had a nearly 40 percent higher survival rate than the chicks in forced partnerships. The latter lost more eggs, and if the eggs did produce babies, those babies were at a higher risk of dying in the first 48 hours since male birds were less likely to take care of them in those first crucial hours.
Researchers observed differences in courting patterns, as well, in the two groups. Voluntary pairs copulated more often because female zebra finches were more responsive to the advances of their partners. But forced pairs had struggles in synchronizing their flight, while males were more likely to leave the nest and mate with other female birds.
Researchers concluded that good genes are not all that matters in zebra finch couples. The little birds also look for a partner that matches their personality. If the birds are happy with their partner, they are more likely to mate successfully, have more babies, and take care of them. Infidelity is also reduced to a minimum.
Image Source: Wikipedia
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