by David Coppedge

The male peacock’s fancy feather show: an icon of Darwin’s theory of sexual selection, right? Then why did Japanese scientists tell Discovery News1 that the females pay them little attention?

The article claims that the male’s appearance fails to interest, much less excite, the females, who seem to pay more attention to his singing. “The determination throws a wrench in the long-held belief that male peacock feathers evolved in response to female mate choice,” the article says. “It could also indicate that certain other elaborate features in galliformes, a group that includes turkeys, chickens, grouse, quails and pheasants, as well as peacocks, are not necessarily linked to fitness and mating success.”

What’s more, the scientists, who observed peacock mating displays for six years, could not find a correlation between the attractive males and their fitness. Females were seen to run around males they preferred and get them to shiver their feathers. These were not the ones with the most elaborate displays. They speculated that maybe the fancy feathers are obsolete mating signals, and that vocalizations are now more important.

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