Birds-of-paradise are living, breathing, dancing, singing examples of evolutionary extremes. Isolated in the rainforests of New Guinea, these species evolved in the absence of predators. As such, their designs have been driven by sexual selection—female preference, rather than physical necessity, per se—and the results are over the top.
Cornell University ornithologist Ed Scholes and National Geographic photojournalist Tim Laman have combed the rainforests of New Guinea and Australia for the past eight years in search of every one of the birds-of-paradise’s 39 species. The research duo has amassed some 40,000 images of these ornate birds performing their elaborate courtship rituals. The project’s official website is set to launch sometime in January, but they have released a trailer to tide viewers over until then. The only thing more astounding than the images of these avian anomalies is the evolutionary history that created them.