Bird Families

Painted Malur, Malurus splendens


In the photo - a male of the brilliant painted Malure (Malurus splendens).

In the photo - a male of the brilliant painted Malure (Malurus splendens). Malury (family Maluridae) are small birds, about half the size of a sparrow, found in Australia and New Guinea. Male Malyurs are very brightly colored. This coloration, as well as the habit of often pulling up a long, stepped tail, creates their original appearance. All malyurs are inhabitants of bush thickets, in search of food they often and willingly jump on the ground.

A male of a brilliant painted malure leaping on the ground. Photo © Alexey Opaev

The brilliant Malure (like most other species of this small family) is characterized by communal nesting. This means that a breeding pair and several younger subordinates, most often males, who do not reproduce themselves, but help to raise offspring, live on the same territory.

A young male (left) and a female of a brilliant painted malure. Photo © Alexey Opaev

Malyurs (unlike most other communally nesting birds) are characterized by extramarital copulations: females visit the territories of neighbors and mate with males living there. It happens like this. In the early morning, even before dawn, males (dominants and, to a lesser extent, subordinates) sing actively. They can sing during the day, but not so zealously. In the predawn twilight, females visit neighboring territories, focusing on the singing coming from there, and mate with local gentlemen (M. Double, A. Cockburn, 2000. Pre-dawn infidelity: female control extra-pair mating in superb fairy-wren). Sometimes it comes to the fact that most chicks in a brood come from neighbors (this was shown by the analysis of DNA microsatellite loci for paternity).

Thus, it is important for males to mate not only with their own, but also with as many other females as possible. In addition to pre-dawn singing, one more feature can help them in this - the structure of the copulatory organ. As you know, birds have a cloaca - an expansion of the end part of the hind gut, into which the excretory and reproductive ducts of the genitourinary system flow. Males have a cloacal outgrowth at the site of the cloacal opening. During the mating season, it increases and takes on a characteristic cylindrical shape. And only in Malyurs, the cloacal protrusion has a shape that is not entirely cylindrical. The deviation arises due to the additional outgrowth revealed only in them - the tip of the cloacal protrusion. In different species of Malyur, its relative length varies and is positively correlated with the size of the testes. The relative size of the testes, in turn, is related to the mating system. They are larger in species whose females are more likely to visit neighboring males. In this case, the competition between males is the highest.

Left - cloacal outgrowth (cp) and the tip of cloacal outgrowth (t) in male Malyurs (side view, as if the bird was lying on its back with its head on the right). The cloacal outgrowth is devoid of feather cover, with the exception of a small tuft of feathers (f) surrounding the cloacal opening (v). On the right is the relationship between the relative length of the cloacal protrusion tip and the relative weight of the testes in different species of the Malyur family: black rhombus - blue-chested (M. pulcherrimus), black square - red-backed (M. melanocephalus), black circle - fine (M. cyaneus), white circle - brilliant (M. splendens), white rhombus - multi-colored (M. lamberti) and white square - white-winged (M. leucopterus) painted malure, black triangle - striped grass malure (Amytornis striatus), white triangle - red-fronted softtail (Stipiturus malachurus) ... Some species of Malure (for example, multicolored) live in monogamous pairs, mates are rare with them, and the female mates with only one male. In such species, the testes are relatively small, and the tip of the cloacal protuberance is very small. Figures from the article by M. Rowe et al., 2008.Good vibration? Structure and function of the cloacal tip of male Australian Maluridae

The exact function of the tip of the cloacal protrusion of the mules has not yet been clarified. It is speculated that it can increase the likelihood of fertilization - for example, by stimulating the female's cloaca during copulation.

Beautiful painted cuckoo (Malurus cyaneus, close relatives of brilliant painted cuckoo, which also have extramarital copulations), at the nest, from which the chick of the bronze cuckoo parasitizing on cuckoo (Chalcites sp.) Peeps out. Drawing by renowned animal painter and ornithologist John Gould from K. L. Buchanan, A. Cockburn, 2013. Fairy-wrens and their relatives (Maluridae) as model organisms in evolutionary ecology: the scientific legacy of Ian Rowley and Eleanor Russel

Scientific classification:

Domain: Eukaryotes

Kingdom: Animals

A type: Chordates

Class: Birds

Squad: Passerine

Family: Malyurovye

Genus: Painted Malury

View: Brilliant Painted Malur (Latin Malurus splendens (Quoy & Gaimard, 1830))

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