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Anim Behav. 1998 Jan;55(1):41-50.

Mate choice by female red junglefowl: the issues of multiple ornaments and fluctuating asymmetry

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Department of Biology, The University of New Mexico


The significance of multiple ornaments of male birds and other animals is currently not well understood. Male red junglefowl, Gallus gallus, possess a number of morphological traits that appear to be ornamental in nature. These traits include components of the colourful plumage and fleshy structures on the face and head, the single, medially-located comb, paired wattles and ear lappets. Some studies have implicated the comb in the mate choice decisions of female junglefowl, and some have also indicated that plumage of males is not important in this regard. To test for a possible role of other male morphological ornaments in female mate choice, and to evaluate the earlier counterintuitive findings concerning male plumage, we controlled comb size, and experimentally manipulated plumage, wattles and ear lappets of male red junglefowl. We also tested responses of female junglefowl to asymmetry of bilaterally paired male ornaments by manipulating the symmetry of the paired wattles, ear lappets and the ornate hackle feathers of the neck. None of these manipulations provided evidence that female red junglefowl are sensitive to asymmetry of paired ornaments of males. A series of tests involving a male with pronounced body asymmetry likewise produced negative results. In contrast to some other studies on birds, we obtained no evidence that female red junglefowl use symmetry of either ornamental or non-ornamental traits in mate choice decisions. Comb size, the only male trait shown to be used by females, both in the present study and in some earlier ones, did not correlate significantly with natural asymmetry in any of several measured traits.


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