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The Waiting Game

A Case Study on the Behavioral Ecology of Long-Tailed Manakins


Susan Bandoni Muench
Biology Department
SUNY Geneseo


In this interrupted case study, students examine the cooperative courtship behavior of long-tailed manakins. Males of the long-tailed form leks, areas in which males display for females in groups. Leks in this species consist of two to 11 males, with two males taking part in a cooperative song and dance display for females. After the cooperative display, only one of the males will mate with the female. Students consider a variety of possible explanations for the cooperation seen in this species, and use data from the original study to corroborate or reject hypotheses they formulate. The case provides a framework for a discussion of social behavior, including kin selection and reciprocal altruism, as well as for consideration of observational tests of hypotheses in field biology. Students conclude the case by making predictions about behaviors in other bird species, especially other species of manakins.

  • Learn specific details of cooperative courtship behavior in the long-tailed manakin.
  • Discuss and, through the extension assignment, demonstrate an understanding of kin selection, reciprocal altruism, and delayed benefits in the evolution of social behavior.
  • Formulate testable hypotheses and design experiments to test hypotheses to explain the behavior of the long-tailed manakins
  • Interpret data from the original paper and draw conclusions concerning the explanation for the cooperative behavior observed in manakins.
  • Apply knowledge from the case study to complete a written assignment addressing related and more recent studies
Keywords: Evolution; natural selection; sexual selection; kin selection; animal behavior; altruism; social behavior; birds; long-tailed manakin
Topical Area: Scientific method
Educational Level: High school, Undergraduate lower division, Undergraduate upper division
Formats: PDF
Type/Method: Interrupted
Language: English
Subject Headings: Evolutionary Biology   Ecology   Biology (General)   Zoology  
Date Posted: 9/22/2011
Date Modified: N/A
Copyright: Copyright held by the National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science, University at Buffalo, State University of New York. Please see our usage guidelines, which outline our policy concerning permissible reproduction of this work.

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