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Jealous female birds drown out flirting males

Discussion in 'Pet News' started by testmg80, Jul 20, 2009.

  1. testmg80

    testmg80 PetForums VIP

    Jul 29, 2008
    Likes Received:
    Biologists have discovered that female birds change the way they sing to drown out their male partners and prevent them from flirting with other females.

    By Richard Gray, Science Correspondent
    Published: 9:00AM BST 19 Jul 2009

    It is proof that males everywhere can fall victim to female jealousy.

    Researchers from Oxford University discovered that warbling antbirds, which form lifelong partnerships in the tropical forests of South America where they are found, normally sing duets to mark their territory.

    But when single females in the area sing in an attempt to attract a mate, the paired females change the volume and pattern of their song so that it "jams" any response from their male partner.

    The males, however, which became excited when they heard the song of the lone female, responded by changing their songs to avoid this interference from their mates.

    The researchers believe their findings provide an insight into how animals have evolved duets and may even shed light on the origins of dance and music in humans.

    Dr Nathalie Seddon, a zoologist at Oxford University who has just been awarded a L'Oreal-UNESCO Women in Science award for her work, said that the birds in partnerships compete to be heard, leading to innovative changes in their songs.

    She said: "Males and females in the Amazon forest tend to pair for life, so they tend to produce songs in duets to defend their territories.

    "A females will jam the notes of the male's song if they hear a single female in the area while the male attempts to interject another song so they can be heard in a kind of acoustic battle."

    Dr Seddon and her colleague Dr Joseph Tobias conducted their research by tracking 17 pairs of antbirds in the Peruvian rainforest. By playing each couple the songs of a rival pair or the song a single female, they were then able to record how they reacted.

    When faced with a rival pair, the couple responded together in a precise and co-ordinated duet, but when they heard a single female, the duet broke down as the paired females attempted to block out the calls of their partners.

    Dr Tobias said: "Single females are a threat to paired females because they increase the likelihood that males will cheat on their existing partner or abandon them for a new one. We know that divorce is common in antbirds."

    Dr Seddon has also discovered that different species of birds can share the same "language" to allow them to communicate with each other. She has found that males in separate species of antbirds will use identical songs to warn off males in other species to protect food sources.

    She said: "It is quite exciting. There is quite a lot of communication going on between species.

    "People usually assume that the main song that a bird uses is for mate attraction and that it is extremely species specific as they would not want to attract birds of the wrong species, but we are finding there are cases where birds have actually adapted to have the same song.

    They are different species but they are using the same language."

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