Why the Buff-Breasted Sandpiper Blushes at Beautiful Armpits
Dr. Laurie Santos is an Associate Professor of Psychology at Yale University. Her research provides an interface between evolutionary biology, developmental psychology, and cognitive neuroscience, exploring the evolutionary origins of the human mind by comparing the cognitive abilities of human and non-human primates. Her experiments focus on non-human primates (in captivity and in the field), incorporating methodologies from cognitive development, animal learning psychology, and cognitive neuroscience.
Laurie Santos: The \r\nanimal kingdom is full of amazing, amazing behaviors. Typically in \r\nwhich males are trying to attract females. So, most of the time in the \r\nanimal kingdom, females are the ones who tend to be very choosy. So \r\nthey pick between different males based on their attributes, in part \r\nbecause males typically don't donate much other than their good sperm \r\nand their good genes. So, females tend to care a lot about how good a \r\nmale looks, how awesome his song his, how great his dance is, and so \r\non. And this leads to a pressure for males to kind of ratchet it up and\r\n sort of have a bit of an arms race in terms of how awesome their dance \r\nis and their song is and so on.
Some of my favorite examples \r\nof males ratcheting it up, are cases of... there’s a species known as \r\nthe Buff-Breasted Sandpiper. It’s this otherwise kind of drab-looking \r\nbrown Arctic bird. It’s drab looking because it lives in the Arctic, \r\nvery hard to get food and do everything. But it kind of allows for its \r\nbeauty to come out in really strange ways. And one of these ways is \r\nthat it has incredibly attractive armpit. So, it’s armpit is very white,\r\n very clean and it will do flash displays for females where males will \r\nkind of get out in a field and kind of flash its armpit and if the \r\nfemales like the armpit, they can fly from miles and miles and then \r\nthey’ll do this kind of wonderful armpit display and the females, you \r\nknow, fall for it; they think this is wonderful. But you can tell, you \r\nknow, kind of which males have the sexy armpits by which ones are \r\nflashing and all the females are all "Ahhh!" And so on.
They \r\nalso, other species in which males do incredible dances to woo females, \r\nthere’s this species of bird known as the manikin in which the males \r\nactually do a really elaborate dancing display that actually involves \r\ntwo partners. So there’s a kind of senior male who gets to mate with \r\nthe females and another male who apprentices with him and has to learn \r\nthe dance. And the female picks on the dance of both of them even \r\nthough the senior guy gets the girl. But then eventually then the \r\napprentice will kind of inherit the dancing court and then get the \r\nlady.
Recorded May 21, 2010
Interviewed by Andrew Dermont
From elaborate dancing displays to incredibly attractive armpits, the animal kingdom is full of colorful ways for males to woo mates.
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