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Anim Behav. 2000 May;59(5):953-963.

The evolution of postcopulatory displays in dabbling ducks (Anatini): a phylogenetic perspective.

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Department of Biology, University of Utah


Although postcopulatory displays are widespread in animals, little is known about their function or the intended receiver. The postcopulatory displays of dabbling ducks are among the best described for any animal group. We documented the presence of initial and additional postcopulatory displays in nearly all dabbling duck species. We then reconstructed the evolution of postcopulatory displays in dabbling ducks using a phylogeny derived from mitochondrial DNA sequences. The display immediately following copulation (the initial display) is highly stereotyped in most species and shows extreme phylogenetic conservation. In contrast, the performance of additional displays is less stereotyped and less phylogenetically conservative. We review the possible functions of postcopulatory displays. Using evidence from display orientation, display form and phylogenetic reconstruction, we suggest that the most likely functions of postcopulatory displays in dabbling ducks are pair bond maintenance, individual identification, or signalling a successful copulation.

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