Energetics of the acrobatic courtship in male golden-collared manakins (Manacus vitellinus)

J. Barske, L. Fusani, M. Wikelski, N. Y. Feng, M. Santos, B. A. Schlinger


In lek mating systems, females choose mates through indicators of quality, which males may exhibit by their performance of courtship displays. In temperate regions, displaying seasons are brief (one to two months), whereas in the tropics courtship seasons may be prolonged. Moreover, in temperate-breeding animals lekking behaviour can be energetically demanding, but little is known about the energy costs of lekking in tropical animals. Daily, over the course of a nearly seven-month-long breeding season, male golden-collared manakins (Manacus vitellinus) of Panamanian rainforests perform acrobatic courtship displays that markedly elevate heart rates, suggesting that they require high energy investment. Typically, animals of tropical lowland forests (such as manakins) exhibit a ‘slow pace of life’ metabolic strategy. We investigated whether male manakin courtship is indeed metabolically costly or whether the birds retain a low daily energy expenditure (DEE), as seen in other tropical species. To assess these questions, we calibrated manakin heart rate against metabolic rate, examined daily lek activity and, using telemetry, obtained heart rates of individual wild, lekking male manakins. Although metabolic rates peak during courtship displays, we found that males actually invest minimal time (only approx. 5 min d−1) performing displays. As a consequence, the DEE of approximately 39 kJ d−1 for male manakins is comparable to other lowland tropical species. The short, intense bursts of courtship by these birds make up only approximately 1.2% of their total DEE. Presumably, this cost is negligible, enabling them to perform daily at their arenas for months on end.

  • Received September 25, 2013.
  • Accepted November 25, 2013.
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