Pair bonding in the female zebra finch: a potential role for the nucleus taeniae

Neuroscience. 2009 May 5;160(2):275-83. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2009.02.003.


Male and female zebra finches are highly social and form pair bonds typically associated with reproduction. To determine how these bonds affect a female's behavioral response to future interactions, females were paired with a male for 2 weeks, separated for 48 h, and then exposed to the same or a novel male. Control females were left unpaired and introduced to a novel male. Behaviors, as well as neural ZENK expression, were quantified. Females displayed higher levels of behaviors associated with pair bonds (clumping and preening) toward their mates than novel males, and display of these behaviors was correlated with expression of the immediate early gene ZENK in the nucleus taeniae of one group of females, those interacting with their mates. Behaviors of the stimulus males were largely unaffected, but those interacting with an unpaired female attempted to mount more than those interacting with their mates. The results indicate that the nucleus taeniae may play some role in the maintenance of pair bonds in this species. Additionally, females may provide some signal to influence elements of the behavior of males.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Amygdala / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Avian Proteins / metabolism*
  • Early Growth Response Protein 1 / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Finches / physiology*
  • Male
  • Pair Bond*
  • Social Behavior


  • Avian Proteins
  • Early Growth Response Protein 1