This book is the story of a remarkable bird, the golden-collared manakin (Manacus vitellinus) of Panama. Males of this species perform one of the most elaborate, physically complex, and noisy courtship displays of any animal on the planet. Barney A. Schlinger delves into the specialized neurons, muscles, bones, and hormonal systems underlying the manakin's unique courtship behaviour, creating a rich life-history account that integrates field observations and evolutionary biology with behavioural ecology, anatomy, physiology, biomechanics, and general ornithology.
The personal lives of investigators and the natural history of the Panamanian rainforest provide context for this account of the bird's fascinating behaviour. Schlinger clearly and approachably explains basic concepts in disciplines such as avian anatomy, endocrinology, sexual differentiation, and the neurobiology of song and aeroacoustics, offering readers a window into the biology of this exuberant bird.
Barney A. Schlinger is associate dean of life sciences and professor of integrative biology/physiology and ecology/evolutionary biology at the University of California, Los Angeles. He is a past president of the Society for Behavioral Neuroendocrinology and lives in Topanga, CA.
"Manakins are 'exuberant' birds, flamboyant in their bizarre sexual behavior. Barney Schlinger takes readers on an engrossing journey through his decades of research exploring why these small tropical dancers rank among the most remarkable birds in the world."
– Scott Weidensaul, author of A World on the Wing
"I was immediately drawn into The Wingsnappers, an example of biological writing at its best. Barney Schlinger examines the unique sexual selection of a remarkable and charismatic bird. It will fascinate a wide audience."
– Bernd Heinrich, author of A Naturalist at Large and Mind of the Raven
"The integration of the brain and its periphery come alive, as seen from the floor of a rainforest and the interior of a laboratory."
– Ellen Ketterson, Distinguished Professor of Biology, Indiana University
"Barney Schlinger synthesizes a lifetime of research to reveal the fascinating processes underlying the courtship behavior of the golden-collared manakin. The Wingsnappers instills wonder and appreciation for a small yet remarkable bird."
– John M. Marzluff, author of Welcome to Subirdia and coauthor of In the Company of Crows and Ravens
"This is far more than just a book about a bird species. It weaves together many threads of biology to describe the regulation of complicated behaviors by hormones, placing them in the history of tropical ornithology."
– Randy J. Nelson, author of An Introduction to Behavioral Endocrinology