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Falling In Love Increases Reproductive Success in Birds, Researchers Say

Sep 15, 2015 01:07 PM EDT
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Falling in love has always been viewed as a "magical" moment. For some birds, this moment is vital for their reproductive success, according to researchers who recently examined the cost and benefits of courtships and living happily ever after, as a finch. 

Malika Ihle, Bart Kempenaers, and Wolfgang Forstmeier from the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology studied a population of 160 zebra finches that were subjected to a series of speed-dating sessions. According to a news release, they allowed 20 male and 20 female birds to interact freely and choose their mate. However, only half of them were allowed to stay paired with their first choice, while the others were broken up and paired with a different mate that the researchers chose for them.

After observing both the happily married birds and those in an arranged marriage, the researchers found that offspring from those that chose their mate willingly had a 37 percent higher survival rate, according to the release. The researchers found that the mortality rate of the non-chosen pair's offspring was higher, since during the crucial 48 hours after birth, the fathers did not care for their eggs as much as those fathers in love. Also, non-chosen birds appeared to be less lovey-dovey with each other and had higher rates of infidelity.

The researchers had chosen zebra finches because they tend to mate monogamously for life and share the burden of parenting, much like human couples, the release noted. Also, like female humans, the researchers concluded that the female birds chose their mate based on attractive characteristics. Being able to choose freely therefore increases the birds' reproduction success and encourages parental commitment. 

Their findings were recently published in the journal PLOS Biology

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