Evolution

Sing on high, dance on the floor

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Science  04 Jan 2019:
Vol. 363, Issue 6422, pp. 40-41
DOI: 10.1126/science.363.6422.40-a

A Raggiana bird-of-paradise from the Southern Highlands, Papua New Guinea

PHOTO: NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC IMAGE COLLECTION/ALAMY STOCK PHOTO

The frugivorous, polygamous, and wildly glamorous birds of paradise are a puzzle to evolutionary biologists. What is sexual selection acting on to result in such extremely visual, behavioral, and aural diversity among these related species? Ligon et al. analyzed 961 video clips, 176 audio clips, and 393 museum specimens. They concluded that females are selecting on the combined sensory assault from song, display, and plumage color, resulting in a “courtship phenotype.” Although all elements are required for successful courtship, there is room for variation depending on environmental constraints. Song predominates in the canopy, where it is unimpeded by twigs and branches, whereas flashy behavioral display is most effective on the gloomy forest floor.

PLOS Biol. 16, e2006962 (2018).

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