Thursday, August 19, 2010

Dating advice from your friendly neighborhood finch

In the animal kingdom, it's well established that by interacting with some individuals and avoiding others, you can influence your experience with natural selection (read: your chance of mating with a hot stud/chick). I think this paradigm is especially obvious in the high school setting: hanging out with the footballers and the cheerleaders increases your odds of mating (or at least, attempting to mate), while hanging out with the geek squad (ah, the good old days) definitely decreases your chance of mating (Glee, anyone?).

A while back, I wrote about dating lessons we can learn from monkeys. Today, I'll share with you the results of a recent study that highlights a dating lesson we can learn... from birds. American researchers set out to analyze the social networks of a species of wild finches to study the relationship between how pretty they are (ornament elaboration), how social they are (social lability), and how successful they are at mating. So they captured and banded a whole bunch of finches, and tracked them year-round.

The researchers found that less elaborate males (the "ugly" ones) shifted social groups more often than the prettier males. When it came to finding a mate, this party-hopping behavior somewhat compensated for their ugliness: the highly social birds were more successful at finding a mate when compared with equally ugly but less social birds.

There's an important lesson here: to increase your chance of mating, it might be a good idea to vary who you hang out with. I'm sure Dear Abby would approve.

Reference: Structure of social networks in a passerine bird: consequences for sexual selection and the evolution of mating strategies. (2010) Oh and Badyaev, Am Nat 176(3):E80-9.

5 Responses to “Dating advice from your friendly neighborhood finch”

kate said...

"And that's how Sue "C"s it!" :-)

Also, would the study also suggest that,if you are particularly attractive (aka. Finn Hudson), you don't necessarily NEED to vary who you socialize with?

@ Kate: Yeah, I wish I had a catchy end phrase like that. I welcome your suggestions.

Regarding males that are already attractive, the funny thing is, you're right. The pretty birds get lucky even if they don't socialize as much. Nobody said it was fair...

Thanks for the comment!

Fawn said...

I wonder if the "ugly-but-social" birds are just frequently changing groups, or if they have other personal attributes that cause them to be more social. Not that you could ask the birds... but I'm thinking in the human world, it wouldn't be enough to simply decide to hang out with different people. Some people are naturally more social, are comfortable with people, have an easier time making friends. For people, I'd say that hanging out with different groups is a result of social ability, and it's clearly the person's charisma that makes him/her attractive to potential mates, not the varied groups of friends.

On the other hand, I suppose that whether you're a bird or a person, getting to know more people increases your chances of finding someone who is a good "fit" for you, from a purely statistical point of view.

Anyway, a fun post. Thanks!

Thanks for the comment, Fawn! You raise an interesting question in your first point. I guess we'll have to wait for future studies to figure out if males who change groups often are especially charismatic. :)

I think you're bang on on the second point, though: the way I see it, if you have five friends, and you don't stand a chance of mating with any of them, you need to find new friends, right? :)

swingers said...

like fawn said , i think that hanging out with different groups is a result of social ability, and it's clearly the person's charisma that makes him/her attractive. it's obvious for me that meeting more people increases your chances to find someone

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