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Zebra Finch Research – Females Choose Mates with Compatible Personalities

Personality and Mate Choice

Brower Bird NestResearchers 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.



Further Reading

Personality and Nesting Success Study

Female Zebra Finches Inherit “Infidelity Gene” from Fathers

Deciphering Zebra Finch Communication

About Frank Indiviglio

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I believe that I was born with an intense interest in animals, as neither I nor any of my family can recall a time when I was not fascinated by creatures large and small. One might imagine this to be an unfortunate set of circumstances for a person born and raised in the Bronx, but, in actuality, quite the opposite was true. Most importantly, my family encouraged both my interest and the extensive menagerie that sprung from it. My mother and grandmother somehow found ways to cope with the skunks, flying squirrels, octopus, caimans and countless other odd creatures that routinely arrived un-announced at our front door. Assisting in hand-feeding hatchling praying mantises and in eradicating hoards of mosquitoes (I once thought I had discovered “fresh-water brine shrimp” and stocked my tanks with thousands of mosquito larvae!) became second nature to them. My mother went on to become a serious naturalist, and has helped thousands learn about wildlife in her 16 years as a volunteer at the Bronx Zoo. My grandfather actively conspired in my zoo-buildings efforts, regularly appearing with chipmunks, boa constrictors, turtles rescued from the Fulton Fish Market and, especially, unusual marine creatures. It was his passion for seahorses that led me to write a book about them years later. Thank you very much, for a complete biography of my experience click here.
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