Singing Wings, Or Natural Selection’s Lesser Known Sibling

By Carl Zimmer | August 1, 2005 8:34 pm

I’ve been on hiatus for quite a while, in part because of some surgery (more on that later), but I just wanted to write a quick post to point you to my latest article in tomorrow’s New York Times, about how birds can sing like cricket. It’s a wonderful example of how sexual selection can alter bodies, not for simple survival but to lure the opposite sex.


Comments (6)

  1. jimbo

    Maybe the club-winged manakin’s predecessor on the tree of life ate a cricket. Rather than being fully digested, some of the cricket’s DNA was injected into the sperm factory. Miraculously a similar scenario took place in the female. Abracadabra, another tangle in the Tree of Life.

    What I really love is Bostwick’s prediction:

    On her next trip to Ecuador, Dr. Bostwick hopes to catch a male club-winged manakin and clip off the raking tip on each wing (a harmless procedure).
    “I should be able to completely silence the bird,” she predicted.

    Its like hypothesizing that if we cut off Keith Richards fingertips he won’t be able to grind his axe…no brainer! Although Keith may be a bad example since after 40 years with the Stones he may not even have fingertips anymore!

  2. Jason Malloy

    Those curious, like me, shouldn’t miss the video links available in the New York Times article. Pictures and PDFs are also available on Dr. Bostwick’s webpage:

    And more manakin video clips are available here:

  3. Jason Malloy

    Oh, and get well, Carl. I hope it’s nothing too serious. Preferably something like wisdom teeth, where its no big deal and tailored for an evolutionary lesson as well. :)

  4. I saw a report on tv a few months ago about these birds. It was part of a rainforest documentary on PBS.

  5. Monte Davis

    Sexual selection may be “lesser known” in the world of textbooks and science writing. But most humans spend a good part of their lives more or less obsessively engaged in its strategies.

    After all, once you zoom in below the population level, sexual selection is the primary filter for differential reproduction among animals. (Not to mention plants that use animals, e.g. pollinators that mistake flower parts for a mate.)

  6. Ryan

    Did you see that our President is advocating “intelligent design” to be taught in our nation’s classrooms? Unbelievable.


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The Loom

A blog about life, past and future. Written by DISCOVER contributing editor and columnist Carl Zimmer.

About Carl Zimmer

Carl Zimmer writes about science regularly for The New York Times and magazines such as DISCOVER, which also hosts his blog, The LoomHe is the author of 12 books, the most recent of which is Science Ink: Tattoos of the Science Obsessed.


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