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Sexual Preferences for Mate Song in Female Canaries (Serinus Canaria)

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Recent studies have shown that female passerine birds give more sexual displays for songs of their mates than for songs of other males. The present study aimed to determine to what extent familiarisation with a song may account for females' song preferences. Ten female canaries were paired with a male during 3 days before egg laying; females were subsequently left alone to incubate and rear their young. Females were subjected to the familiarisation procedure when nestlings were 9 days old, until they were 17 days old. During the familiarisation period, twice a day, each female was successively exposed to the playback of three successive song records: (a) The mate song (M), a song frequently emitted by their previous sexual partner; when this song was played back, females were concurrently exposed to the sight of their previous mate. (b) The song of a non-mate accompanied by the sight of the mate (NMAS), a song emitted by a non-mate male; when this song was played back, females were also exposed to the sight of their previous mate. (c) The song of a non-mate not accompanied by the sight of the mate (NMNAS). At the end of this familiarisation period, the sexual preferences of the females for these songs were studied. Sexual responses were elicited by the emission of the M, NMAS and NMNAS songs, without male presentation. We analysed the total number of copulation solicitation displays (CSDs) elicited by each song. Females displayed more for M song than for NMAS or NMNAS songs. Eight of the 10 females gave at least half of their displays to M song. In a separate experiment, females without reproductive experience with the males failed to present a preference for any of these songs. Taken together, these results strongly suggest that mate recognition is not a mere effect of familiarisation with songs but is closely associated with previous reproductive experience. Song preferences that develop as a result of association with a particular male may be important in the maintenance of pair bonds and could influence future copulation acceptance with this mate.

Affiliations: 1: Equipe Oiseaux, UPRESA CNRS 7025, Laboratoire de Psychophysiologie et Ethologie, Bâtiment H, Université de Paris X, Nanterre, 200 avenue de la République, 92001 Nanterre cedex, France


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