Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Secret Sex Lives Of Swans Under Scrutiny In New Study

Date:
June 8, 2006
Source:
University Of Melbourne
Summary:
The promiscuous mating habits of black swans have initiated a new study at Albert Park Lake by University of Melbourne researchers. Previous DNA paternity analysis has revealed that about one in six baby swans are 'illegitimate', resulting from secretive matings between a female and a male other than her own partner.

Dr Raoul Mulder with one of the black swans under scrutiny at Albert Park Lake in Melbourne.
Credit: Photo : Les O'Rourke

The promiscuous mating habits of black swans have initiated a new study at Albert Park Lake by University of Melbourne researchers.

“Swans have long been renowned as symbols of lifelong fidelity and devotion, but our recent work has shown that infidelity is rife among black swans,” says Dr Raoul Mulder from the University of Melbourne’s Department of Zoology.

Previous DNA paternity analysis has revealed that about one in six baby swans are ‘illegitimate’, resulting from secretive matings between a female and a male other than her own partner.

“What is unusual about these findings is that male swans are typically very protective of their female companions. How then can a female be promiscuous in this relationship? Is she sneaking off in the middle of the night to meet other swans? In addition, the male is also seeking bonus copulation with other females,” says Dr Mulder.

Dr Mulder says the often secretive mating habits of birds have proven difficult or impossible to monitor in the wild. He says the project’s innovative technology will, for the first time, provide researchers with a way of monitoring the swans’ secretive sexual behaviour.

A research team led by Dr Mulder will be capturing and tagging the swans that live around the lake as part of a long-term study.

On top of the standard procedures for monitoring the birds, each of the males will have a tiny microchip attached to one of its tail feathers.

Dr Mulder explains that during the breeding season, the females will be temporarily fitted with a miniature state-of-the-art electronic tracking device, or ‘decoder. He says the decoder recognises individual microchips similar to how e-tags operate.

“The devices look similar to small backpacks and are placed on the bird’s lower back,” he says

“When a male and female copulate, the female’s decoder unit detects the microchip implanted in the male’s tail feathers, registering the male’s identity, as well as the time of copulation.”

“All mating events are logged onto the decoder unit, so that a complete record of her mating behaviour over several weeks can be downloaded when the swan is recaptured.”

The results of the study will be presented for scientific publication. “Our research hopes to provide new material for nature documentaries and reveal to the world, the true sexual nature of these iconic birds.”

The study at Albert Park Lake is funded by a grant from the Australian Research Council, with permission from Parks Victoria, the Department of Sustainability and Environment, the Australian Bird and Bat Banding Scheme and the University of Melbourne’s Animal Experimentation Ethics Committee.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University Of Melbourne. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University Of Melbourne. "Secret Sex Lives Of Swans Under Scrutiny In New Study." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 June 2006. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/06/060607170545.htm>.
University Of Melbourne. (2006, June 8). Secret Sex Lives Of Swans Under Scrutiny In New Study. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 16, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/06/060607170545.htm
University Of Melbourne. "Secret Sex Lives Of Swans Under Scrutiny In New Study." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/06/060607170545.htm (accessed September 16, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Some Tobacco Farmers Thrive Amid Challenges

Some Tobacco Farmers Thrive Amid Challenges

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) The South's tobacco country is surviving, and even thriving in some cases, as demand overseas keeps growers in the fields of one of America's oldest cash crops. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Scientists Examine Colossal Squid

Raw: Scientists Examine Colossal Squid

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) Squid experts in New Zealand thawed and examined an unusual catch on Tuesday: a colossal squid. It was captured in Antarctica's remote Ross Sea in December last year and has been frozen for eight months. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Conservationists Face Uphill PR Battle With New Shark Rules

Conservationists Face Uphill PR Battle With New Shark Rules

Newsy (Sep. 14, 2014) New conservation measures for shark fishing face an uphill PR battle in the fight to slow shark extinction. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Shocker: Journalists Are Utterly Addicted To Coffee

Shocker: Journalists Are Utterly Addicted To Coffee

Newsy (Sep. 13, 2014) A U.K. survey found that journalists consumed the most amount of coffee, but that's only the tip of the coffee-related statistics iceberg. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

    Environment News

      Technology News



      Save/Print:
      Share:

      Free Subscriptions


      Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

      Get Social & Mobile


      Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

      Have Feedback?


      Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
      Mobile: iPhone Android Web
      Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
      Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
      Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins