The birdy smell of a compatible partner

Sep 07, 2012

New evidence shows that birds may choose their mate with the help of smell. They prefer a dissimilar mate because this gives their young a more efficient immune system. This has been shown in a new study by researchers from Lund University in Sweden, in a Swedish-French collaboration.

Humans and many animals can choose a suitable mate by smell. Choosing a mate with the right smell can give the offspring an efficient . This is because each individual's smell can be said to reflect information on the individual's . By finding the mate whose genes best match one's own, the chances are higher that offspring will have greater resistance to a range of parasite attacks and other diseases.

Unlike many animals, birds have been considered to have a poor , but there are exceptions. Blue petrels are Antarctic with an unusually good sense of smell. They can recognise their mate and their nest using smell alone, and return to their nests under cover of darkness. A group of scientists, including researchers from Lund University, have now shown that the nose of the blue petrel is even capable of smelling which mate will produce young with the best immune systems.

"The study is a collaboration between researchers here in Lund and researchers in France. My contribution has been my knowledge of how to identify and compare genes from different individuals", says Maria Strandh, a researcher at the Department of Biology at Lund University.

Blue petrels are long-lived and monogamous birds.

Explore further: Male monkey filmed caring for dying mate (w/ Video)

More information: Major histocompatibility complex class II compatibility, but not class I, predicts mate choice in a bird with highly developed olfaction, rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/early/2012/08/31/rspb.2012.1562

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Can gulls smell out a good partner?

Jul 06, 2011

Male and female kittiwakes smell different from each other, according to research by Sarah Leclaire from the Centre national de la recherche scientifique at the Université Paul Sabatier in France and her team. Their ...

Female mammals follow their noses to the right mates

Mar 17, 2009

Female birds often choose their mates based on fancy feathers. Female mammals, on the other hand, may be more likely to follow their noses to the right mate. That's one conclusion of Cambridge zoologist Tim Clutton-Brock ...

Repulsive smell could combat bed bugs

Mar 31, 2011

In recent years, bed bug infestations have become increasingly common in Swedish homes. There are two different species of bed bug that suck blood from humans – the common bed bug and the tropical bed bug. Increased ...

Smell the love

Aug 04, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- Mandrills can use body odour to identify potential mates, researchers have found, in a study which lends new support to the theory that humans also have the ability to "sniff out" suitable ...

Wake up and smell the sweat

Nov 21, 2007

Some people are oblivious to the odor in the locker room after a game, while others wrinkle their noses at the slightest whiff of sweat. Research by Prof. Doron Lancet and research student Idan Menashe of the Molecular Genetics ...

Recommended for you

Male monkey filmed caring for dying mate (w/ Video)

Apr 18, 2014

(Phys.org) —The incident was captured by Dr Bruna Bezerra and colleagues in the Atlantic Forest in the Northeast of Brazil.  Dr Bezerra is a Research Associate at the University of Bristol and a Professor ...

Orchid named after UC Riverside researcher

Apr 17, 2014

One day about eight years ago, Katia Silvera, a postdoctoral scholar at the University of California, Riverside, and her father were on a field trip in a mountainous area in central Panama when they stumbled ...

In sex-reversed cave insects, females have the penises

Apr 17, 2014

Researchers reporting in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on April 17 have discovered little-known cave insects with rather novel sex lives. The Brazilian insects, which represent four distinct but re ...

Fear of the cuckoo mafia

Apr 17, 2014

If a restaurant owner fails to pay the protection money demanded of him, he can expect his premises to be trashed. Warnings like these are seldom required, however, as fear of the consequences is enough to ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Biologists help solve fungi mysteries

(Phys.org) —A new genetic analysis revealing the previously unknown biodiversity and distribution of thousands of fungi in North America might also reveal a previously underappreciated contributor to climate ...

NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs. For three years, Robonaut has had to manage from the waist up. This new pair of legs means the experimental robot—now stuck ...