Tag: sexual selection

What the Duck? Lady Mallards May Get Down With Bright-Billed Drakes to Avoid STDs

By Patrick Morgan | April 13, 2011 3:57 pm

When it comes to mallard bills, brighter is better: A bright yellow bill is duck-speak for “I’m healthy,” attracting more female ducks than dingy green ones. After discovering that avian semen has antibacterial properties, scientists then found that the semen of brighter-billed males killed more bacteria than the semen of darker-billed ones. It implies that by seeking out bright-billed males, female ducks are protecting themselves against bacteria-related sexually transmitted diseases.

In her experiment, University of Oslo researcher Melissah Rowe collected semen from ducks (a feat unto itself—the videos in this link are amazing, but watch at your own risk) of various bill colors, and then tested how well the semen killed bacteria such as E. coli. She found that ducks whose bills had more carotenoids—an organic pigment that brightens bills—also had semen that more effectively killed E. coli. However, they discovered that the semen’s effectiveness against the bacteria S. aureus wasn’t associated with bill color, possibly implying that this bacteria doesn’t pose much harm to ducks.

Read More

A Big-Bearded Bustard Is a Lucky Bustard

By Sarah Stanley | February 10, 2011 12:12 pm

If you want to impress a female great bustard, going clean-shaven is probably the wrong approach. According to biologist Juan Carlos Alonso and colleagues at the Spanish National Museum of Natural Sciences, the size of a male bustard’s “whiskers and beard” is correlated with its reproductive success.

The great bustard is a beloved but endangered bird found in Spain and other locations scattered across Eurasia. Males of the species are possibly the heaviest flying birds in the world (rivaled only by the male kori bustard), and each sports whisker-like plumage on either side of its beak, along with neck feathers that resemble a beard. They also engage in showy mating displays, strutting about “like a vicar in a tutu,” according to naturalist Chris Packham in this BBC video.

Read More

NEW ON DISCOVER
OPEN
CITIZEN SCIENCE
ADVERTISEMENT

Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!

Discoblog

Quirky, funny, and surprising science news from the edge of the known universe.
ADVERTISEMENT

See More

ADVERTISEMENT
Collapse bottom bar
+

Login to your Account

X
E-mail address:
Password:
Remember me
Forgot your password?
No problem. Click here to have it e-mailed to you.

Not Registered Yet?

Register now for FREE. Registration only takes a few minutes to complete. Register now »