Personality and Mate Choice
Researchers first tested the personalities of female Zebra Finches by monitoring reactions to novel objects and their willingness to explore new surroundings. Females that were judged to have “exploratory personalities” were then allowed to view pairs of male Zebra Finches as they were offered the chance to explore. One male was able to roam at will, but the other’s movements were restricted by a clear box that was invisible to the females. The restrained male therefore appeared “less willing” to explore.
Bold or exploratory females overwhelmingly chose males with the same traits, regardless of the males’ size or beak color (factors also believed to influence mate choice). Shy, non-exploratory females exhibited no preference.
This finding is the first example of a non-sexual behavior or personality trait influencing mate choice in any non-human animal.
Well-Matched Pairs are More Successful
An earlier Zebra Finch study in the UK found that nesting success was greatest where both parents shared personality traits such as aggressiveness or a willingness to explore. Partners that differed in personality did not raise as many chicks as did well-matched pairs.
Rearing chicks requires cooperation and coordinated behavior; researchers speculate that “like-minded” parents achieve this state more easily than do others.
Deciphering Zebra Finch Communication