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Some female birds prefer losers

From Boise, Idaho, at a meeting of the Animal Behavior Society

When a female Japanese quail watches confrontations between two males, she later tends to choose the loser over the champ.

Studies of male clashes in other animals, such as Siamese fighting fish, have generally found that females prefer winners, says Alexander G. Ophir of McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario.

Scientists had reasoned that a winning male offers access to better territories, resources, and genes.

The males of the quail species Coturnix japonica scrap readily, and gamblers in Asia used to pit them against each other like fighting cocks, Ophir says. Canadian rules for animal research forbid staging actual fights, so Ophir and Bennett G. Galef, also at McMaster, used a confrontation in which males peck at each other through a clear partition. The male that pecked most often was declared the winner.

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