In the eye of the beholder : visual mate choice lateralization in a polymorphic songbird


Birds choose mates on the basis of colour, song and body size, but little is known about the mechanisms underlying these mating decisions. Reports that zebra finches prefer to view mates with the right eye during courtship, and that immediate early gene expression associated with courtship behaviour is lateralized in their left hemisphere suggest that visual mate choice itself may be lateralized. To test this hypothesis, we used the Gouldian finch, a polymorphic species in which individuals exhibit strong, adaptive visual preferences for mates of their own head colour. Black males were tested in a mate-choice apparatus under three eye conditions: leftmonocular, right-monocular and binocular. We found that black male preference for black females is so strongly lateralized in the right-eye/left-hemisphere system that if the right eye is unavailable, males are unable to respond preferentially, not only to males and females of the same morph, but also to the strikingly dissimilar female morphs. Courtship singing is consistent with these lateralized mate preferences; more black males sing to black females when using their right eye than when using their left. Beauty, therefore, is in the right eye of the beholder for these songbirds, providing, to our knowledge, the first demonstration of visualmate choice lateralization.4 page(s

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Macquarie University ResearchOnline

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Last time updated on 8/18/2016

This paper was published in Macquarie University ResearchOnline.

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