A new study reveals that birds who fall in love are likely to produce more offspring and take better care of their young.
It’s easy to recognize the evolutionary advantages to maintaining a single partner for humans, but a series of new studies reveal that other species engage in the behavior as well. According to a report from the Guardian, the latest study has shown that birds that deliberately selected their own mates produced 37 percent more offspring than birds who were paired by researchers.
While genetics played a more important role in the embryo’s likelihood of survival, the researchers found that parental behavior was a much better indicator of the survival rates for hatchlings. The birds that chose their own mates were much more likely to care for their young than the birds with “arranged marriages.”
There are several theories on why animals choose a partner and stick with them throughout the mating process. Some of the direct advantages to such an arrangement include safety, access to food, and prized territories. Indirectly, an animals’ ability to choose a mate with the most attractive features will ensure the highest likelihood of strong genes being passed off to the next generation.
Birds aren’t the only species that choose mates. According to behavioral ecologist Michael Jennions from the Australian National University, “Female frogs almost always chose males with deeper voices, and female birds usually prefer males with brighter plumage or longer tails. These male traits are assumed to signal benefits to females, which is why females prefer males with more extreme expression of these traits.”
The study, carried out by Dr. Malika Ihle from the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology, examined a group of captive zebra finches to determine how their mating behaviors affected the mortality rates of their offspring, as well as the overall number of offspring produced.
The birds that were given more time to choose a mate were more prolific and better suited to raise young in general.