Finch: Gender Gap

music
ambience: Finch songs

Darwin’s Finches on the Galapagos Islands are some of the most studied birds on the planet…but it turns out, in all the data collected, there’s a gender gap. I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet. We know a lot about male finch mating calls, but not much at all about how female finches choose a mate. Jeff Podos is an Assistant Professor of Biology at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst.

“The place where this research is really going is to try to ask females what they think about songs because they’re the ones who are really making the decisions about who they want to mate with. A female has to be very discriminating about who she mates with, because once she chooses a mate she has to stick with that decision for a long time. And so she has to be very critical in the decisions she makes.”

Despite their importance, part of the reason female finches have not been so well studied until now, is that they’re more elusive in the field than males. So Jeff Podos and his team have been working with female finches in captivity at the Darwin Research Station at the Galapagos Islands. By playing a wide variety of mating calls for them, they are trying to determine how a female chooses the male she mates with from the many who pursue her.

“…and most of the time the females will rebuff the males, but sometimes she happens upon a male she likes and when the male is displaying and trying to convince the female to respond, when she’s ready to mate, she does this display, and it’s actually a really neat thing to see. She points her bill up to the sky and raises her wings a little bit and flutters them and lifts her tail up and arches her back, so her abdomen almost touches the ground and the male sees that and says all right and he goes and he mates with her and it’s all over very quick.”

Since it’s the female finch’s choice which affects the survival of the species, scientists are eager to learn the basis for their decision.

Pulse of the Planet is presented with support provided by the National Science Foundation. I’m Jim Metzner.

music

Finch: Gender Gap

Researchers host a virtual "dating game" to learn how female finches ultimately choose their mates.
Air Date:08/19/2002
Scientist:
Transcript:


music
ambience: Finch songs

Darwin's Finches on the Galapagos Islands are some of the most studied birds on the planet...but it turns out, in all the data collected, there's a gender gap. I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet. We know a lot about male finch mating calls, but not much at all about how female finches choose a mate. Jeff Podos is an Assistant Professor of Biology at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst.

"The place where this research is really going is to try to ask females what they think about songs because they’re the ones who are really making the decisions about who they want to mate with. A female has to be very discriminating about who she mates with, because once she chooses a mate she has to stick with that decision for a long time. And so she has to be very critical in the decisions she makes."

Despite their importance, part of the reason female finches have not been so well studied until now, is that they're more elusive in the field than males. So Jeff Podos and his team have been working with female finches in captivity at the Darwin Research Station at the Galapagos Islands. By playing a wide variety of mating calls for them, they are trying to determine how a female chooses the male she mates with from the many who pursue her.

"...and most of the time the females will rebuff the males, but sometimes she happens upon a male she likes and when the male is displaying and trying to convince the female to respond, when she’s ready to mate, she does this display, and it’s actually a really neat thing to see. She points her bill up to the sky and raises her wings a little bit and flutters them and lifts her tail up and arches her back, so her abdomen almost touches the ground and the male sees that and says all right and he goes and he mates with her and it’s all over very quick."

Since it's the female finch's choice which affects the survival of the species, scientists are eager to learn the basis for their decision.

Pulse of the Planet is presented with support provided by the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner.

music