From Oaxaca, Mexico, at a meeting of the Animal Behavior Society
Male lance-tailed manakins put on a two-guy show when courting females, but only the alpha bird reaps the immediate benefits when the performance succeeds, says a new study.
So, what's in it for the sidekick? An earlier study in a different species of manakin suggested that courtship cooperation gave the unrequited sidekick a benefit in the form of real estate. If the alpha male disappears, his beta buddy often takes over their habitual display ground.
Emily DuVal of the University of California, Berkeley finds a similar scenario among lance-tailed manakins, but speculates that the betas reap another benefit. Sidekick duty lets the understudy male refine his act, she suggests.
On Panama's Isla Boca Brava, DuVal set up the first detailed behavioral study of lance-tailed manakins. For 6 years, she has watched male pairs court females with elaborate sequences of acrobatics, such as rapid-