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Effects of Parental Colouration On the Mate Preference of Offspring in the Zebra Finch, Taeniopygia Guttata Castanotis Gould

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A study was carried out to show the effect of early experience on later mate selection in the zebra finch, Taeniopygia guttata castanotis Gould. The morphological character, colour, was chosen and two colour types were used - the normal-coloured and the recessive mutant, white. Three crosses (normal by normal; normal by white; white by white) were established and the young from each cross were removed from their parents at the age of 28 days and placed in one of three experimental groups (visual-auditory isolation; visual isolation; sexual isolation) for a period of eight weeks. At the end of this period the birds were sexually mature and were given a choice test between a white and a normal-coloured bird of the opposite sex to that being tested. Results clearly show that the male zebra finch selects his mate on the basis of previous experience with respect to colour. All normal by normal cross males selected a nomal-coloured mate and all white by white cross males a white mate. Males from the normal by white cross showed a random choice of coloured mate. This is not a genetically determined characteristic since male zebra finches will imprint on a different species if reared by it (IMMELMANN, 1969). Female zebra finches do not imprint; regardless of parental colour they invited the normal-coloured male to court. It was found that where imprinting occurs its effects are absolute and are not altered by subsequent experience, and that domestication does not affect imprintability.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Zoology, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia


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