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Bird females see male signals differently


Bird females see male signals differently

Animal communication involves a sender emitting a signal (e.g., male doing a visual display) to a receiver (e.g., female looking at male displays).  We have a relatively good understanding of the causes of variation between males in the properties of their signals. However, from the perspective of the receiver, scientists often assume that there is little variation in terms of how female perceive male signals. In a recent study published in Biology Open, former Ph.D. student Kelly Ronald and Profs. Fernandez-Juricic and Jeff Lucas tested this assumption in female brown headed cowbirds. They found that individual females varied substantially in the densities and overall sensitivities of the cone photoreceptors in their retinas. Using modeling approaches, they found that this level of variation is expected to lead to differences in the way different females would perceive the color and brightness of male signals. These differences in the eyes of the females could potentially explain why some females choose some males over others. 



Read more: Ronald, K.L., A.L. Ensminger, M.D. Shawkey, J.R. Lucas & E. Fernández-Juricic. 2017. Testing a key assumption in animal communication: between-individual variation in female visual systems alters perception of male signals. Biology Open 6: 1771-1783.


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