Graduate Program Affiliations
- Neuroscience & Cognitive Science (NACS)
- BISI-Behavior, Ecology, Evolution, & Systematics (BEES)
Dr. Borgia is interested in sexual selection and mate choice and uses bowerbirds as a model system for his studies. Mate choice is a fundamental, but still poorly understood, evolutionary process that is the focus of much debate in evolutionary and behavioral biology. Naturalists, including Darwin, have long been captivated by the unique courtship behaviors of bowerbirds that include construction of a bower, colorful bower decorations, and highly integrated and complex vocal and dancing displays. Developments in Dr. Borgia's lab have allowed the unique aspects of the bowerbird mating system to be used to address many important issues in the study of sexual selection. Using an automated camera system to monitor courtship and mating behavior at 30+ of bowers, members of our lab are able to study in great detail male traits that are important in mate choice, and follow individually marked females as they visit different males for courtship across their lifetimes. This work is combined with genetic studies to address a variety of important issues associated with the mate choice process. Recent and ongoing studies have focused on how males alter courtship displays in reaction to female signals during courtship, age-related differences in how females choose mates, how male intelligence affects his attraction to females, the role of genetic relatedness to neighbors in affecting male choice of display sites, the role of parasites in affecting male display and mate choice, factors influencing decoration stealing and bower destruction, differences between juvenile and adult males in their use of forced copulations, studies of the importance of UV and the visual system in the choice of bower decorations, the significance of mate choice in reproductive isolation, the importance of co-option in display trait evolution, vocal mimicry, and determining the role of MHC allele frequency in mate choice by females. Longer-term work is focused on understanding lifetime patterns of female visitation and mate choice at male bowers and factors affecting lifetime male success. The larger goal of this work is to develop more realistic models of the mate choice process.
While Dr. Borgia and his students have done field studies of 13 species of bowerbirds in Australia, Papua New Guinea, and Indonesia, prospective students are encouraged to work on satin bowerbirds because of the high proportion of females marked in the Wallaby Creek study population and because of the already rich set of information that can be drawn on in designing research projects. Currently, Dr. Borgia and his students are working with computer scientists to develop programs that will automatically score and process data from video recordings of behavior. This is an exciting new development that will enable us to fully utilize data from these videos to perform the most detailed study of male display and female choice of any species. Extending the use of microsatellite markers will allow quantitative genetic studies of male display.
Ph.D., University of Michigan, 1978. Evolution of mate choice; social structure and patterns of aid-giving behavior; sociobiology.
Select Publication PDFs
- Borgia, G. 2008. Blocking of UV reflectance does not influence use of off-body display elements by satin bowerbirds. Behavioral ecology 19 (4) 740-746. (doi:10.1093/beheco/arn010) [pdf]
- Reynolds, SM, Christman MC, Uy JAC, Patricelli GM, Braun MJ, and Borgia G. 2009. Lekking satin bowerbird males aggregate with relatives to mitigate aggression. Behavioral Ecology 20, 410-15. (doi:10.1093/beheco/arn146) [pdf]
- Keagy, J., Savard, J-F, and Borgia, G. 2009. Male satin bowerbird problem-solving ability predicts mating success. Animal Behaviour. 78: 809-817. [pdf]
- Keagy, J, Savard, JF, Borgia, G. 2011. Complex relationship between multiple measures of cognitive ability and male mating success in satin bowerbirds, Ptilonorhynchus violaceus. Animal Behaviour 81: 1063-1070. [pdf]
- Savard, JF, Keagy, J, Borgia, G. 2011. Blue, not UV, plumage color is important in satin bowerbird Ptilonorhynchus violaceus display. Journal of Avian Biology 42: 80-84.
- Chappell, MA, Savard, JF, Siani, J, Coleman, SW, Keagy, J, Borgia, G. 2011. Aerobic capacity in wild satin bowerbirds: repeatability and effects of age, sex and condition. The Journal of Experimental Biology214: 3186-3196. [pdf]
- Borgia, G., Coyle, B. and Keagy, J. 2012. Comment on "Illusions Promote Mating Success in Great Bowerbirds". Science. 337: 292-292. [pdf]
- Keagy, J., Savard, J-F, and Borgia. G. 2012. Cognitive ability and the evolution of multiple behavioral display traits. Behavioral Ecology. 23: 448-456. [pdf]
- Coyle B J, Hart N S, Carleton K L, & Borgia G 2012. Limited variation in visual sensitivity among bowerbird species suggests that there is no link between spectral tuning and variation in display colouration.J Exp Biol 215:1090-1105. [pdf]
- Hicks*RE, Larned A, Borgia G. 2013. Bower paint removal leads to reduced female visits, suggesting bower paint functions as a chemical signal. Animal Behaviour 85:1209-1215. [pdf]
- Borgia, G. and Keagy, J. 2015. Sexual selection and cognitive ability: what bowerbirds can teach us. In Animal Signaling and Function: An Integrative Approach. D. Irschick, M. Briffa, J. Podos, Eds. John Wiley and Sons. [pdf]
- Keagy, J., Hosler, L.C*, and Borgia, G. 2016. Female active sampling of male paint on bowers predicts female uncertainty in mate choice. Animal Behaviour. 116: 131-137. [pdf] featured in that issue's In Focus section [pdf]
- Borgia, G. and Ball G. 2017. The evolution of beauty: how Darwin's forgotten theory of mate choice shapes the animal world - and us, Richard O. Prum. New York: Doubleday (2017). 448 pp. [pdf]