Talk | Leonida Fusani

21.04.2016 17:00 - 18:30

"Why are the elaborate displays of birds so attractive?"

Leonida Fusani

Konrad Lorenz Institute for Ethology, University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna
Department of Cognitive Biology, University of Vienna

"Why are the eleborate displays of birds so attractive?"

About the talk

Sexual selection was proposed by Charles Darwin to explain the origin of traits that seemed to contradict his theory of evolution by natural selection. A particularly spectacular category of behavioural ornamentations that are thought to have evolved via sexual selection are the elaborate courtship displays performed by males of many species. Despite their widespread presence in a number of animal taxa, we know very little about the mechanisms underlying the evolution of elaborate courtship behaviours. A few species have been studied to estimate the energy requirements of courtship or the hormonal activation of relatively simple courtship behaviours. However, our knowledge about the physiological specializations that support elaborate displays is limited to a few model species. In this talk, I will review our work on the elaborate courtship of a tropical bird, the male Golden-collared manakin. Our studies indicate that in this species females prefer males based on their neuromuscular skills and that elaborate courtship displays evolve to signal these traits. However, the complex array of traits that compose the courtship behaviour of male manakins, and the likely involvement of cognitive skills in the development of the display choreography, suggest that other process of selection are involved in making these displays attractive.

About the speaker

Leonida Fusani was born in Florence, was educated in Italy & the United Kingdom, worked in Germany, USA, and Italy, and since 2014 is Professor of Animal Physiology and Ornithology at the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna, and the University of Vienna, and Director of the Austrian Ornithological Center. His main research interests are courtship displays and animal migration, and for his studies has conducted fieldwork in several areas of the world including Equatorial Africa, Central America and the Himalayas, funded among others by the Max-Planck-Society, the National Geographic Society, the National Science Fundation, and the European Council. Since 2001 he works regularly as a Visiting Scientist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama. For his innovative approach that bridges animal physiology and evolutionary biology, he received in 2007 the Frank A. Beach Award from the Society for Behavioural Neuroendocrinology. Fusani has long been Chair of the Committee of European Societies for Behavioural Biology and Fellow of the International Ornithologists' Union. He is author of more than 60 publications in peer-reviewed journals and is Editor of Ethology and Journal of Ornithology. 


Lecture Hall G (Psychologicum)

Faculty of Psychology
University of Vienna
Liebiggasse 5, left wing, 2rd floor
A-1010 Wien