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Who's in the Video
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[…]

From elaborate dancing displays to incredibly attractive armpits, the animal kingdom is full of colorful ways for males to woo mates.

Question: In your opinion, what is the most fascinating matingrn ritual in the animal kingdom?
Laurie Santos: The rnanimal kingdom is full of amazing, amazing behaviors.  Typically in rnwhich males are trying to attract females.  So, most of the time in the rnanimal kingdom, females are the ones who tend to be very choosy.  So rnthey pick between different males based on their attributes, in part rnbecause males typically don't donate much other than their good sperm rnand their good genes.  So, females tend to care a lot about how good a rnmale looks, how awesome his song his, how great his dance is, and so rnon.  And this leads to a pressure for males to kind of ratchet it up andrn sort of have a bit of an arms race in terms of how awesome their dance rnis and their song is and so on. 
Some of my favorite examples rnof males ratcheting it up, are cases of... there’s a species known as rnthe Buff-Breasted Sandpiper.  It’s this otherwise kind of drab-looking rnbrown Arctic bird.  It’s drab looking because it lives in the Arctic, rnvery hard to get food and do everything.  But it kind of allows for its rnbeauty to come out in really strange ways.  And one of these ways is rnthat it has incredibly attractive armpit. So, it’s armpit is very white,rn very clean and it will do flash displays for females where males will rnkind of get out in a field and kind of flash its armpit and if the rnfemales like the armpit, they can fly from miles and miles and then rnthey’ll do this kind of wonderful armpit display and the females, you rnknow, fall for it; they think this is wonderful.  But you can tell, you rnknow, kind of which males have the sexy armpits by which ones are rnflashing and all the females are all "Ahhh!" And so on. 
They rnalso, other species in which males do incredible dances to woo females, rnthere’s this species of bird known as the manikin in which the males rnactually do a really elaborate dancing display that actually involves rntwo partners.  So there’s a kind of senior male who gets to mate with rnthe females and another male who apprentices with him and has to learn rnthe dance.  And the female picks on the dance of both of them even rnthough the senior guy gets the girl.  But then eventually then the rnapprentice will kind of inherit the dancing court and then get the rnlady.

Recorded May 21, 2010
Interviewed by Andrew Dermont