Female mating preferences in red junglefowl: A meta-analysis

T. H. Parker*, J. D. Ligon

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Citations (Scopus)


Numerous experiments have been conducted in an effort to understand the mating preferences of female red junglefowl (Gallus gallus). Males of this species have both colourful ornamental plumage and fleshy head ornaments, including the comb. Previous studies produced conflicting results regarding the responses of females to these different ornaments. Several studies indicated that the comb influences female choice, but others failed to support this finding. Similarly, feather ornamentation correlated with female choice in some studies, whereas in a number of others it did not. Our meta-analyses show that when all mate choice experiments involving combs are analysed together, female preference is significantly related to male comb morphology. Subsets of these data (non-manipulation experiments, comb length [not colour] experiments, or manipulation experiments that leave one comb unaltered) make this point more strongly. This evidence is consistent with current understanding of the signalling value of the comb of male red junglefowl. Interestingly, when the combs of both males in each choice trial were altered (by painting, tine removal, or covering with latex false comb), we detected no female preference for comb morphology, which suggests that females prefer larger, brighter combs only when these combs appear natural. Our meta-analysis of feather experiments indicated that feather ornamentation was not associated with female mate choice. There was only a weak, non-significant indication that feather ornaments influence female choice in our meta-analysis of non-manipulation studies. In contrast, studies in which male plumage was experimentally manipulated provided no evidence that females utilize feathers in mate choice.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)63-72
Number of pages10
JournalEthology Ecology and Evolution
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Gallus
  • Mate choice
  • Multiple ornaments


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