Jose hidalgo


A Blue-backed manakin (Chiroxiphia pareola); belongs to the Pipridae family (Manakins). This family is characterized for having lek mating systems in which males congregate to give elaborate unique and complex courtship displays to attract females. Specifically, the Blue-backed manakin has obligate cooperative male displays. Males give a loud “pichrr” song above the dance perch that is used to attract females to the dance arena. Individual males may give this song, but often 2 or sometimes 3 males synchronize their songs as they perch within a few meters of each other.  After a bout of “pichrr” songs, a pair of males (usually the alpha-beta) fly to the main dance perch and begin a cooperative dance display which consists of a joint backwards leapfrog dance, and synchronized hops with “wrang” calls. After several minutes of a joint display the alpha male will emit a high toned note that dismisses the cooperative display and the beta male flies to a nearby perch; the alpha male immediately performs a solo dance in front of the female for several minutes. This combination of coordinated and solo display may be repeated several times before copulation occurs with a visiting female.

Why males participate in obligate cooperative displays when one partner receives no apparent direct benefit has yet to be fully understood. Some studies have demonstrated direct, though delayed benefits, to beta males which included rare copulations, ascension to alpha status, and female lek fidelity. Other studies showed that non-mating males might benefit from increasing their competence at displays through song practice. Thus, other factors, such as improved performance in song and dance components, are likely explanations for male cooperative displays in this species.

My MS thesis will specifically address questions related to coordinate singing of Chiroxiphia pareola. Specifically, I will test the long-term developmental hypothesis, which proposes that singing competence increases with age and status of males in the lek, with partners converging on congruent song by practicing or copying.

Portraits Of Research 2009