Judith Janisch, PhD

Former PhD Student (2016-2021)

Konrad Lorenz Institute of Ethology, University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna

During my PhD I am investigating the driving mechanisms behind elaborate courtship displays in golden-collared manakins (Manacus vitellinus) in tropical forests in Panama. I am particularly interested in the behavioural part of the display of the males. At the end of my data collection I would like to put all single aspects of the display together and see if there is an overall aesthetics in the dance of the males or if only parts are important for female choice. A big part of my PhD included the development of a new camera system to record the males in the tropical forests. The video system allows me to film the males in high speed and create 3D data of the recordings. Additionally we are also collaborating with Loopbio GmbH to design an automated tracking software for the video analysis. This is particularly challenging in this environment and with no possibility of marking the birds.

The beauty of dance: Applying new video technologies for analyzing the complex courtship behavior of manakins

Golden-collared manakins (Manacus vitellinus) have one of the most elaborate courtship display in the animal kingdom. They have a lek mating system and undergo a strong sexual selection pressure. Males perform rapid jumps between several saplings that delimit a court on the forest ground to attract females. The display is practiced and rehearsed throughout the whole mating season. In this study we used new technologies to investigate the behavioural parts of the display. In collaboration with Loopbio GmbH, we designed a new camera system to record the behaviour in high speed as the birds move too fast for normal recordings. Additionally, we used three cameras to recreate 3D data points to gain spatial information of the dance within the court. The results will give a better understanding of how sexual selection operates on manakin displays and help to understand which aspects and structural features of the display vary between the individuals and constitute a base for selection. We also want to understand if there is a form of overall aesthetic or the integration of all components evaluated and not only single parts.

This PhD project is supported by the University of Vienna and University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna.

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Loopbio GmbH


Janisch, J., Perinot, E., Fusani, L. and Quigley, C., 2021. Deciphering choreographies of elaborate courtship displays of golden‐collared manakins using markerless motion capture. EthologyDOI

Janisch, J., Mitoyen, C., Perinot, E., Spezie, G., Fusani, L. and Quigley, C., 2021. Video Recording and Analysis of Avian Movements and Behavior: Insights from Courtship Case Studies. Integrative and comparative biology61(4), pp.1378-1393. DOI

Janisch, J., Perinot, E. and Fusani, L., 2020. Behavioural flexibility in the courtship dance of golden-collared manakins, Manacus vitellinusAnimal Behaviour166, pp.61-71. DOI