A Familiar Love Nest Helps the Mood

For birds, that is, says study finding more reproductive success in a well-used setting

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TUESDAY, July 29, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- There's nothing like a well-used love nest to improve the odds of getting "lucky."

Some species of birds who mate in a familiar love nest have two to three times more chance of reproductive success than when they use a location that's never before felt the heat of their avian ardor.

The Cornell University study of Japanese quail is the first to document what many have long suspected -- that breeding is often more successful when animals mate where they've mated before.

The researchers paired male quail with females who were in two sets of cages. The males had mated with females in one set of cages but hadn't previously encountered females in the second set of cages.

"We found that inseminations fertilized at least one egg twice as often in cages where males had been places with females previously, compared with matings in cages where the males had not previously hosted a female," researcher Elizabeth Adkins-Regan, professor, departments of psychology and neurobiology and behavior, says in a news release.

The female quail response was also tested. The rate of eggs fertilized was three times greater in cages where the females had previously consorted with males, compared to cages where the females had not previously encountered males.

"We now know that fertilization isn't just a matter of plumbing; there's a lot of strategic decision-making going on that is regulated by the brain in response to the social and physical environment," Adkins-Regan says.

In this kind of Pavlovian sexual conditioning, external clues allow anticipation of mating and lead to improved mating behavior. This study shows it also leads to more successful fertilization.

The findings could help improve breeding success in endangered species and farm animals.

The study appears online at The Royal Society Web site and will be published in the Aug. 22 issue of Proceedings: Biological Sciences.

More information

Here's where you can learn more about human reproduction.

SOURCE: Cornell University, news release, July 23, 2003
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