A new speed-dating experiment conducted by researchers with the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Germany, gives the phrase “love birds” a whole new meaning. According to the study, the results of which are now published in the journal PLOS ONE, birds can form relationships in the same way humans do: by choosing a partner based on attraction and compatibility, according to UPI.
LOVE IS TRICKY, LOVE IS BLIND
For some time, researchers have questioned why the process of “falling in love” exists. Evolutionarily speaking, the act itself isn’t very smart – “pairing off is an expensive process,” as the Christian Science Monitor points out. This is not only true in regard to monetary investment (dates are expensive), but also in terms of Charles Darwin’s whole “survival of the fitness” spiel. After all, why do we as a species spend so much effort on one person when we can just forgo the pleasantries, throw back a few drinks and mass reproduce, right?
According to scientists, one species of bird might offer some answers. Amazingly enough, zebra finches select mates based on “characteristics known only to themselves.” This means that once a finch finds that special someone, it will spend the rest of its life with that person – err…bird – in a happy, chirp-worthy marriage.
WHAT ZEBRA FINCHES REVEAL ABOUT LOVE
This particular study involved 160 birds, divided into groups of 20 males and 20 females. As part of the speed-dating experiment, the zebra finches were allowed to pair off with a counterpart of their choice. Following this event, half of birds were permitted to remain together, while members of the other half were split apart and forced to pair with another partner.
The birds who “freely chose” each other had successful families at a 37 percent higher rate than the arranged couple, according to the Christian Science Monitor. They also produced more eggs and the newborns had higher survival rates or were healthier in general.
Interestingly enough, although males gave an equivalent amount of attention to their mates, whether forced or chosen, females appeared less interested in their partners if the pairing was arranged.
“The mechanisms behind such behavioral compatibility,” researchers wrote, “in terms of willingness or ability to cooperate with certain individuals and in terms of coordination between partners need further study, in particular in the context of offspring provisioning.”
In any case, the study gives some credence to the idea that mate choice and compatibility does play a significant role in the reproductive success of a species.