The avian dance of love: from mating DNA to true love

This is the season of love and with it comes thoughts of partnership, both for the mated and the unmated. For our avian friends, their own unique mating habits may offer insights into our own.  

It’s all in the DNA

Whether you’re territorial, a girlfriend stealer, or a cross dresser, when it comes to finding a partner, for some birds it’s all in the genes.

Using genome sequencing, scientists from Austria, Canada, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and the United States have discovered that genes determine male mating behavior. They identified three specific types of behavior related to breeding of the wading bird known as the ruff, all dictated by DNA.

The study was published in Nature Genetics on Nov. 16.

Give me love over food

If you had to choose your mate or food, which would you choose? For some avians, there is no choice.

Scientists from the University of Oxford in the U.K. found that mated pairs of great tits chose to prioritize their relationships over sustenance in a novel experiment that prevented couples from foraging in the same location.

The results, published in Current Biology on Sept. 8, demonstrate the importance of social relationships for wild birds, even when pursuing those relationships appears to be detrimental.

Photo credit: © iStock/Patrick Gijsbers

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