Sexual Imprinting on a Novel Adornment Influences Mate Preferences in the Javanese Mannikin Lonchura leucogastroides

Authors

  • Klaudia Witte,

    1. Lehrstuhl für Verhaltensforschung, Universität Bielefeld, germany, and Arbeitsgruppe für Verhaltensforschung, Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Germany
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  • Ulrike Hirschler,

    1. Lehrstuhl für Verhaltensforschung, Universität Bielefeld, germany, and Arbeitsgruppe für Verhaltensforschung, Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Germany
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  • Eberhard Curio

    1. Lehrstuhl für Verhaltensforschung, Universität Bielefeld, germany, and Arbeitsgruppe für Verhaltensforschung, Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Germany
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Corresponding author: Klaudia Witte, Lehrstuhl für Verhaltensforschung, Universität Bielefeld, Morgenbreede 45, 33615 Bielefeld, Germany. E-mail: Klaudia.Witte@biologie.uni-bielefeld.de

Abstract

We investigated whether sexual imprinting on an artificial novel adornment in the Javanese Mannikin Lonchura leucogastroides, a monomorphic estrildid finch, can occur and might provide a mechanism for the evolution of novel traits. We introduced a red feather on the forehead as a novel adornment. Young were raised by parents which were both adorned, which were both unadorned, or only one of which was adorned with the red feather. We tested the female and male offspring of those parents in mate choice tests with an adorned and unadorned conspecific of the opposite sex. Males raised by an adorned mother or adorned parents preferred adorned females significantly more often than males raised by unadorned parents. We conclude that males were sexually imprinted on the red feather. Females raised by an adorned mother or raised by adorned parents significantly preferred adorned males, whereas females raised by unadorned parents showed no preference for adorned males. Thus, females also became imprinted on the red feather. Males might learn the novel adornment in combination with the parent's sex or learn just the most conspicuous sex, whereas females showed a preference for the adornment independent of which sex bore the feather. Our study shows that sexual imprinting might be an effective mechanism for the evolution of a novel trait and that males and females might become imprinted on a novel trait in different ways.

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