Female mallard mating preferences for multiple male ornaments
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Mating preferences were studied in captive wild-stock female mallards. Independent observers scored ornament brightness for the bill and eight plumage areas of male mallards on a scale of 1 to 6. Ornament scores were generally positively correlated with each other as indicated by univariate correlations and principal component analysis. Males with higher bill scores were significantly more likely to obtain pairings. None of eight individual plumage ornaments were significant predictors of pairing success, but males with higher average plumage scores had significantly higher pairing success. Males that completed the molt first were also significantly more likely to be paired. Thus females may have paid some attention to plumage brightness. Stepwise multiple regression produced a model that included only bill and molt, both of which contributed a similar degree (r2 = 0.39); plumage ornaments and size measurements did not enter the model. These results are interpreted in light of hypotheses for the evolution of multiple ornaments, and phylogenetic plumage patterns in dabbling ducks.
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