This stimulation "turns on" the females to increase the likelihood of successful copulation and encourages paternal commitment for the time needed to raise the young.

Sounds familiar? This is presumably what the human dating game is about, say researchers from Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Seewiesen, Germany.

In the study, the team focused on a socially monogamous bird - the zebra finch - and put male and female birds in a room.Using a population of 160 birds, the authors set up a speed-dating session, leaving groups of 20 females to choose freely between 20 males.

Once the birds had paired off, half of the couples were allowed to go off into a life of wedded bliss. For the other half, however, the authors intervened like overbearing Victorian parents, splitting up the happy pair, and forcibly pairing them with other broken-hearted individuals.

Bird couples, whether happy or somewhat disgruntled, were then left to breed in aviaries. The authors assessed couples' behaviour and the number and paternity of dead embryos, dead chicks and surviving offspring.

Strikingly, the final number of surviving chicks was 37 percent higher for individuals in chosen pairs than those in non-chosen pairs.

 

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