loading page

Female zebra finches prefer the songs of males who quickly solve a novel foraging task to the songs of males unable to solve the task
  • Clara Howell,
  • Rindy Anderson,
  • Elizabeth Derryberry
Clara Howell
University of Tennessee

Corresponding Author:clararudihowell@gmail.com

Author Profile
Rindy Anderson
Florida Atlantic University - Davie Campus
Author Profile
Elizabeth Derryberry
Tulane University
Author Profile


Correlative evidence suggests that high problem-solving and foraging abilities in a mate are associated with direct fitness advantages, so it would benefit females to prefer problem-solving males. Recent work has also shown that females of several bird species who directly observe males prefer those that can solve a novel foraging task over those that cannot. In addition to or instead of direct observation of cognitive skills, many species utilize assessment signals when choosing a mate. Here we test whether females can select a problem-solving male over a non-solving male when presented only with a signal known to be used in mate assessment: song. Using an operant conditioning assay, we compared female zebra finch (Taeniopygia guttata) preference for the songs of males that could quickly solve a novel foraging task to the songs of males that could not solve the task. Females were never housed with the test subject males whose song they heard, and the only information provided about the males was their song. We found that females elicited more songs of problem-solving males than of non-solvers, indicating that song can contain information about a male’s ability to solve a novel foraging task and that naïve females prefer the songs of problem-solving males.
29 Jan 2020Submitted to Ecology and Evolution
29 Jan 2020Submission Checks Completed
29 Jan 2020Assigned to Editor
14 Feb 2020Reviewer(s) Assigned
03 Mar 2020Review(s) Completed, Editorial Evaluation Pending
06 Mar 2020Editorial Decision: Revise Minor
28 May 20201st Revision Received
29 May 2020Submission Checks Completed
29 May 2020Assigned to Editor
29 May 2020Review(s) Completed, Editorial Evaluation Pending
05 Jun 2020Editorial Decision: Accept