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Assortative Pairings in Diamond Firetails (Stagonopleura guttata) are not the Result of Mutual Mate Choice for an Ornament

Authors

  • Valeria Zanollo,

    1. School of Biological Sciences, Flinders University of South Australia, Adelaide, South Australia
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  • Matteo Griggio,

    Corresponding author
    1. Konrad Lorenz Institute of Ethology, Department of Integrative Biology and Evolution, University of Veterinary Medicine of Vienna, Vienna, Austria
    2. Department of Biology, University of Padova, Padova, Italy
    • Correspondence

      Matteo Griggio, Department of Biology, University of Padova, Via U. Bassi 58/B, I-35131 Padova, Italy.

      E-mail: matteo.griggio@unipd.it

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  • Jeremy Robertson,

    1. School of Biological Sciences, Flinders University of South Australia, Adelaide, South Australia
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  • Sonia Kleindorfer

    1. School of Biological Sciences, Flinders University of South Australia, Adelaide, South Australia
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Abstract

Positive assortative mating occurs when individuals with similar phenotypes mate more frequently with each other than is expected by chance. In species in which both the males and females are ornamented, assortative pairings could arise from mutual mate choice on the same trait. We test this mechanism of mate choice and assortative pairing in the Diamond Firetail (Stagonopleura guttata), an Australian estrildid finch in which both sexes are ornamented with red bills, red rumps and white flank spots. We have previously shown sex differences in the degree of ornamentation as females have more flank spots than males. These white flank spots are used during sexual display, being fully displayed by courting males and by females when approaching a displaying male. Here, we experimentally test whether mutual mate preference is based on the number of flank spots. There was no evidence for a direct mutual preference for spot number. Given a choice of potential mates with a natural or experimentally manipulated number of flank spots, males preferred females with more spots, while female preference was not solely based on flank spots. Intriguingly, in both wild and captive Diamond Firetails, we found the number of flank spots in pairs was correlated suggesting a basis for positive assortative pairing. Nevertheless, we conclude that assortative pairing in Diamond Firetails is not due to mutual choice of mates based on the number of flank spots. We discuss different selection pathways for this trait in each sex.

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