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Fri, 27th Nov 2015

Supergenes determine behaviour

Ruffs (c) Zeddammer

The choices we make are often down to past experience and the circumstances, including picking partners. However, for a bird called the ruff, the way it picks up ladies is determined genetically. Some ruffs are territorial and impress using dramatic neck feathers. Less common are the ‘girlfriend stealers’ who display on the edge of territories and attempt to lure females away. Finally, female mimics or ‘cross dressers’ approach mates in disguise.  Jon Slate from the University of Sheffield explains to Felicity Bedford how genetics played a part in the evolution of these complex behavioural strategies.

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