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Examining animal social skills

(Ivanhoe Newswire) - Dancing, flirting and wearing a flashy outfit. Humans aren't the only ones who use these social behaviors to attract the opposite sex. Animals also use "social smarts" in their mating rituals.

Researchers are investigating the curious and complex social skills involved in attracting a mate. For example, the male sage-grouse - a hen with a peacock-like tail - performs a "strutting display" to attract females. Researchers are examining why "the male sage-grouse may need not only a big flashy display, but also the ability to use it appropriately," Gail Patricelli, an assistant professor of evolution and ecology at the University of California, Davis, was quoted as saying.

The strutting skills of a male sage-grouse can mean the difference between mating or not, highlighting the social importance of this mating "dance."

Also being examined are the effects of color on diet and mate choices of desert gerbils and kangaroo rats, as well as the group dancing and singing rituals of male manakin birds when attracting a mate.

SOURCE: Presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Chicago, February 12-16, 2009

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