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Letters to Nature
Nature 299, 818 - 820 (28 October 1982); doi:10.1038/299818a0

Female choice selects for extreme tail length in a widowbird

Malte Andersson

Department of Zoology, University of Gothenburg, PO Box 25059, S-400 31 Gothenburg, Sweden

Darwin's1 hypothesis that male secondary sexual ornaments evolve through female preferences is theoretically plausible2–7, but there is little experimental field evidence that such preferences exist8–10. I have studied female choice in relation to male tail length in the long-tailed widowbird, Euplectes progne, and report here that males in which the tail was experimentally elongated showed higher mating success than males having normal or reduced tails. The possibility that intrasexual competition among males maintains the long tail was not supported: males with shortened tails held their territories as long as did other males. These results suggest that the extreme tail length in male long-tailed widowbirds is maintained by female mating preferences.



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