Coordinated courtship displays are a common feature of species forming long-term pair bonds. In lekking species, on the contrary, there are no stable pair bonds because partners meet only to copulate, and males indicate their quality and/or attractiveness to females by displaying morphological and behavioral traits. In some cases, females interact with these displaying males, but little is known about the role of the females in these encounters. In the Neotropical bearded manakins, females join males in their acrobatic courtship displays in the final phase of mate choice. We hypothesize that females participate in the courtship dance to better assess male motor skill by observing male responses to female signals. We filmed at high speed the courtship displays of 2 species of bearded manakins and compared the displays performed by males alone, where the female is absent from the arena, with those performed together with a female. In addition, we compared the movements of the male with those of the female and analyzed the display coordination. We found that when a female is present in the arena, males increase the speed or frequency of several performance parameters that are strongly correlated with courtship success. Additionally, males seem to pace their movements to those of the female as she takes the lead in the duo dance. Our results suggest that before choosing a mate for copulation, female manakins challenge the motor skills of prospective males.
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Vol. 132 • No. 3