Sexed-Up 'Bachelor' Birds Could Save Their Species

Single male hihi birds can cut down inbreeding, ensure genetic diversity
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 17, 2015 1:50 PM CDT
Sexed-Up 'Bachelor' Birds Could Save Their Species
Bachelor party.   (Wikipedia)

Is the male hihi bird native to the Jersey Shore? Because, like The Situation and Pauly D, the single male birds in this endangered species (they're actually only found in New Zealand) are decidedly boorish, creeping for already taken ladies to mate with. But this actually might save the hihi—also known as the stitchbird—from extinction, reports. A Zoological Society of London study in Evolutionary Applications found that "bachelor" hihi birds who don't stick to one breeding territory, instead fathering chicks wherever the mood strikes, can decrease inbreeding among paired birds and boost genetic diversity within the species. Why this is important: There are only about 2,000 left in the wild, and scientists are afraid one cataclysmic disease could wipe them out.

Male "floater" birds, as they're called, don't have as successful a breeding rate as their partnered male pals, but by hooking up with partnered females—or, as the study more elegantly puts it, through "extra-pair copulations"—the floaters make a "small but significant impact" on the birds' population size. Floaters tend to be either really young (about a year old and without the know-how to defend territory) or older (more than 5 years and too tired to defend territory), per The main issue with studying floaters: They're basically "homeless" and hard to track down, the scientists note. (At least the floaters stab their guy friends in the back, not in the neck.)

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