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Abstract

The males of the Golden-collared manakin (Manacus vitellinus), a passerine bird of the Neotropical region, perform elaborate courtship displays that are among the most spectacular in the animal kingdom. During a 7-mo long breeding season, male manakins aggregate in leks of up to 12 individuals, and each male clears a small ‘court’ on the forest floor where he spends several hours per day performing his displays either with or without the presence of a female. Like males of other manakin species, males of M. vitellinus produce loud mechanical sounds with their wings during the displays. The elaborate displays of the manakins are thought to be the result of sexual selection, which is particularly intense in lekking species in which females choose their mate mainly on the basis of behavioural and morphological features. However, we know little about differences in display between male manakins which may be related to individual differences in reproductive success. A quantitative, detailed analysis of the courtship displays has been difficult because the birds’ movements are too fast to be studied with standard video recording techniques. For the first time, we recorded the displays of male Golden-collared manakins in the forest of Panama with a high-speed camera that allows a time resolution 5–40 times higher than that of a standard video camera. We found that several elements of the displays differed significantly between individuals. In addition, the slow-motion analysis revealed the features of the displays that had not been described in previous studies. Individually different features of the displays may form the basis for female choice and will allow testing hypotheses about the evolution of the manakin displays by sexual selection and their importance for speciation mechanisms in the genus Manacus.