... but I stopped. Now I'm a dad, and may blog again...

Monday, May 14, 2012

593: Blue



This bird has very blue eyes. Very blue indeed. That's the extent of all I wanted to say, but it doesn't seem enough really, does it. I just can't bring myself to say "look at this" and leave it at that. And so begins the padding, the waffle, the nonsense, the inane and obsessive word-count building. The least I could do is try and make it remotely about the picture.

It's not just any bird. It's a bowerbird. It's evolved into a collector of brightly coloured objects, with which it decorates its own carefully curated mating-ground, in a desperate struggle to attract the fussy female of its species. It's the result of sexual selection, the process in which over a long time species develop seemingly wasteful behaviour or traits, such as the beautiful but ridiculous tail of the peacock. Blame those fussy peahens. Thousands or millions of years ago a peahen had a preference for a slightly fancy tail on her peacocks. Some of her daughters inherited that preference and some of her sons inherited a fancy tail.

Over many many generations the lust for decorative tails got stronger and stronger, and an arms race developed between peacocks, the current state of which is that large colourful feathery fan. It might get bigger, brasher and sillier, but it probably wont. At least not via sexual selection. Evolution has probably struck a balance between the need to attract a female, and the need to evade predators. If it does get more ornate and impractical it will be the result of artificial selection; humans selectively breeding for certain characteristics that nature would not (or at least, has not) favour. That's where we get all breeds of domestic cats and dogs, spherical cows, and the chicken.

There, that was good wasn't it? You got a little educational lecture; I got a little delusional. And together we both passed a little time. Learnt a little; played a little. Had some fun. Reading, writing, evolution; these are a few of my favourite things. I think it's about time I wrapped up this post. I only wanted to put that picture of the bowerbird here. OK.

2 comments:

Willis Shafthauer said...

Do peacocks have any natural predators? I always assumed they lived on some predator free island. If they don't, it must be a pretty ineffective predator to have not decimated the entire species yet. Possibly some sort of poorly sighted coyote?

Kevin Bradshaw said...

Peacocks are from India; plenty of predators there. Lions and tigers and bears, oh my.