Male satin bowerbird problem-solving ability predicts mating success

Jason Keagy, Jean François Savard, Gerald Borgia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

127 Scopus citations


Mate choice and mate attraction are important behaviours influencing the evolution of elaborate traits. It is possible that male general cognitive performance plays an important role in sexual attractiveness, but there has been no direct test of this hypothesis. Satin bowerbirds, Ptilonorhynchus violaceus, are an excellent species for testing this hypothesis because their complex male courtship, including use of decorations of certain colours, suggests a selective advantage to individuals with superior cognitive abilities. We used males' strong aversion to red objects on their bowers to design two unique problem-solving tests. We presented males with these problems to test the hypothesis that males that are better problem-solvers have higher mating success. We confirmed this prediction and demonstrate that neither age nor motivational level significantly influenced problem-solving scores. Our findings suggest that general cognitive performance is related to male mating success. This is the first evidence that individuals with better problem-solving abilities are more sexually attractive.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)809-817
Number of pages9
JournalAnimal Behaviour
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2009

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


Dive into the research topics of 'Male satin bowerbird problem-solving ability predicts mating success'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this