Living Reference Work Entry

Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Psychological Science

pp 1-5

Date: Latest Version

Study of Dunnock Mating, The

  • Eduardo S. A. SantosAffiliated withBECO do Departamento de Zoologia, Instituto de Biociências, Universidade de São Paulo Email author 
  • , Shinichi NakagawaAffiliated withEvolution & Ecology Research Centre and School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University New South Wales


Dunnock breeding system; Hedge sparrow mating system


The study of natural history, behavioral ecology, and evolution of dunnocks, Prunella modularis, with respect to their intriguing mating behaviors.


A mating system is a description of the processes by which males and females acquire mates. Mating systems are generally stable within and among populations of a species. For instance, most avian species could be described as socially monogamous, meaning that males and females form pairs during the breeding season to mate and, occasionally, to raise young together. Within this typical bird population, most individuals would breed as pairs.

At least since the 1950s (Campbell 1952), bird watchers and researchers suspected that a little dull brown bird, the dunnock, Prunella modularis, would hold some surprises about their mating behaviors. But it was not until the 1980s that studies using color-banded individuals (i.e., marked with a unique combination of colored ...

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