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The Role of Ultraviolet-A Reflectance and Ultraviolet-A-Induced Fluorescence in Budgerigar Mate Choice

Authors

  • Sophie M. Pearn,

    1. Centre for Behavioural Biology and the Ecology of Vision Laboratory, School of Biological Sciences, University of Bristol, Clifton, Bristol, UK
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  • Andrew T. D. Bennett,

    1. Centre for Behavioural Biology and the Ecology of Vision Laboratory, School of Biological Sciences, University of Bristol, Clifton, Bristol, UK
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  • Innes C. Cuthill

    1. Centre for Behavioural Biology and the Ecology of Vision Laboratory, School of Biological Sciences, University of Bristol, Clifton, Bristol, UK
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Andrew T. D. Bennett, Centre for Behavioural Biology and the Ecology of Vision Laboratory, School of Biological Sciences, University of Bristol, Woodland Road, Clifton, Bristol, BS8 1UG, UK. E-mail: andy.bennett@bristol.ac.uk

Abstract

Many parrots have plumage that either reflects strongly in the ultraviolet-A (UVA) waveband, between 315–400 nm, or exhibits UVA-induced fluorescence. Previous experimental work on budgerigars (Melopsittacus undulatus) suggests that UVA reflectance plays a role in mate choice, as in other diurnal birds, but evidence for fluorescent cues playing a role is unconvincing. Here we report two experiments on budgerigars, designed to determine whether fluorescent cues play a role in signalling when UVA reflectances are absent, an approach which separates removal of UVA reflectance from removal of fluorescence. First, we determined whether the choices of different females are correlated under these treatment conditions. Secondly, we investigated female preferences for fluorescing and non-fluorescing males when UVA reflections are absent, to determine whether the yellow emissions of fluorescence are playing a role in mate choice. Results from experiment 1 do not suggest that females agree on which males are attractive when UVA reflectances are absent, with only half of the subjects choosing the same male. Neither did different females make the same choices in experiment 2. This lack of agreement provides further evidence that UVA reflectances from males play an important role in female choice in this species. Experiment 2 provides no evidence to suggest that UVA-induced fluorescence plays a role in mate choice. Overall, our study supports previous findings showing that UVA reflectance plays a role in sexual signalling in this species, but provides no evidence to suggest the same for fluorescence when UVA reflectances are absent.

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