Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

The quick bird catches the girl

Date:
August 17, 2011
Source:
University of Manchester
Summary:
While the early bird might catch the worm, it's the quick bird that lands the ladies, according to new research into the running performance of an Arctic cousin of the grouse.

Male Svalbard rock ptarmigans are champion runners.
Credit: Image courtesy of University of Manchester

While the early bird might catch the worm, it's the quick bird that lands the ladies, according to new research into the running performance of an Arctic cousin of the grouse.

Scientists studying rock ptarmigan on the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard discovered a large difference in the running capabilities between the sexes, with the larger males able to run more efficiently and up to 50% faster than females.

The University of Manchester team suggested that faster, efficient male birds are more successful at breeding, being able to defend larger territories against rivals, indicating that physiology, and not just physical appearance, plays a role in sexual selection.

"Little is known about the role physiology -- the internal biological functions of living organisms -- plays in sexual selection in birds and other animals," said Dr Jonathan Codd, who led the study in the University's Faculty of Life Sciences.

"Male and female ptarmigan exhibit very distinct behaviours during the breeding season. Throughout the summer months, when there is constant daylight on Svalbard, male ptarmigan have to defend their territory from rival males 24 hours a day and are continually active. This places huge demands on their locomotor system."

"As a result, male ptarmigans have far superior running abilities to females and, despite their larger size, are much more efficient, expending less energy and are able to achieve aerial running -- where both feet are off the ground at the same time -- which females cannot."

The Manchester team say their findings are important for two reasons. Some bird species, like some other animal species, exhibit obvious physical differences between the sexes. For instance, males, as well as females, can be many times larger than the opposite gender. Despite these differences, scientists have rarely looked at their physiological consequences.

The gender difference among ptarmigans is relatively subtle; males are slightly larger than females and, as with many bird species, their plumage differs. What this research shows is that even animals with physically similar sexes can show major physiological differences, and the researchers suggest that gender inequality should play a more significant role in zoological studies of the animal kingdom in the future.

Secondly, the physical appearance of male and female birds -- and other animals -- is well documented as playing a role in sexual selection. Male birds are often more colourful than their drab female counterparts and it is known that this plays an important role in the success of males finding mates. This study shows that physiological attributes may also play a role in the breeding success of male birds, with females choosing mates that are faster and able to defend larger territories for longer.

"This study shows that, as well as physical appearance, there may be physiological determinants at play in the sexual selection process, as females appear to be choosing males who successfully defend territories, which is dependent upon their running ability," said co-author Dr Robert Nudds.

"We now plan to look at these differences between the sexes in more detail to better understand what is taking place in the mating behaviour of birds."


Story Source:

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


Journal Reference:

  1. J. J. Lees, R. L. Nudds, L. P. Folkow, K.-A. Stokkan, J. R. Codd. Understanding sex differences in the cost of terrestrial locomotion. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 2011; DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2011.1334

Cite This Page:

University of Manchester. "The quick bird catches the girl." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 August 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/08/110817022134.htm>.
University of Manchester. (2011, August 17). The quick bird catches the girl. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 19, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/08/110817022134.htm
University of Manchester. "The quick bird catches the girl." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/08/110817022134.htm (accessed September 19, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Friday, September 19, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Elephant Undergoes Surgery in Tbilisi Zoo

Raw: Elephant Undergoes Surgery in Tbilisi Zoo

AP (Sep. 18, 2014) Grand the elephant has successfully undergone surgery to remove a portion of infected tusk at Tbilisi Zoo in Georgia. British veterinary surgeons used an electric drill to extract the infected piece. (Sept. 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Chimp Violence Study Renews Debate On Why They Kill

Chimp Violence Study Renews Debate On Why They Kill

Newsy (Sep. 17, 2014) The study weighs in on a debate over whether chimps are naturally violent or become that way due to human interference in the environment. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
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
Scientists Given Rare Glimpse of 350-Kilo Colossal Squid

Scientists Given Rare Glimpse of 350-Kilo Colossal Squid

AFP (Sep. 16, 2014) Scientists say a female colossal squid weighing an estimated 350 kilograms (770 lbs) and thought to be only the second intact specimen ever found was carrying eggs when discovered in the Antarctic. Duration: 00:47 Video provided by AFP
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