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Do the hens care what the peacock looks like?

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Paonroue.JPG
Indian peacock/Jebulun

From an interesting 2013 paper: on peafowl courtship:

Conspicuous, multicomponent ornamentation in male animals can be favored by female mate choice but we know little about the cognitive processes females use to evaluate these traits. Sexual selection may favor attention mechanisms allowing the choosing females to selectively and efficiently acquire relevant information from complex male display traits and, in turn, may favor male display traits that effectively capture and hold female attention. Using a miniaturized telemetric gaze-tracker, we show that peahens (Pavo cristatus) selectively attend to specific components of peacock courtship displays and virtually ignore other, highly conspicuous components. Females gazed at the lower train but largely ignored the head, crest and upper train. When the lower train was obscured, however, females spent more time gazing at the upper train and approached the upper train from a distance. Our results suggest that peahens mainly evaluate the lower train during close-up courtship but use the upper train as a long-distance attraction signal. Furthermore, we found that behavioral display components (train rattling and wing shaking) captured and maintained female attention, indicating that interactions between display components may promote the evolution of multicomponent displays. Taken together, these findings suggest that selective attention plays a crucial role in sexual selection and likely influences the evolution of male display traits. Supplementary material available online at here. More. – Through their eyes: selective attention in peahens during courtship Jessica L. Yorzinski1,2,*, Gail L. Patricelli1, Jason S. Babcock3, John M. Pearson2,4 and Michael L. Platt2,4

File:A small cup of coffee.JPG It sounds as though it’s not clear how much difference the exaggerated display makes. We’ve been hearing that for years and the story is likely complex. But that doesn’t really matter because the simple version of sexual selection was popularized by Darwin, which puts it beyond the reach of evidence anyhow.

A whole Darwinian thesis has revolved for decades around the idea that the peacock is showing the hen that he is more fit than other cocks because he is capable of dragging that train around. The obvious problem is, it’s unclear that the hen bird of a species not noticed for intelligence is doing any calculations that would justify his trouble. It’s a story in search of Darwin, and that thy are sure to find, wherever they look.

See also: New study: Females don’t choose mates

and

Can sex explain evolution?

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It would be interesting to know if the hens even notice that this bird’s feathers are a blank. And does it matter, as long as he hops around correctly and screams okay? (Hint: Maybe not.):

2 Replies to “Do the hens care what the peacock looks like?

  1. 1
    wd400 says:

    he obvious problem is, it’s unclear that the hen bird of a species not noticed for intelligence is doing any calculations that would justify his trouble

    Why would she need to do any calculations? Or have intelligence at all?

  2. 2
    bornagain77 says:

    as to ‘sexual selection’

    The counterintuitive role of sexual selection in species maintenance and speciation – Maria R. Servedio – April 2014
    Excerpt: Speculation on the role of sexual selection in driving speciation and species maintenance traces back to the beginning of the explosion in sexual selection research seen in the past few decades (e.g., refs. 3, 4, 22, and 28). The more that this putative relationship is explored, however, the more tenuous it appears to be (e.g., refs. 10 and 11). Here we show that when sexual selection is isolated in a pure Fisherian form, it inhibits species maintenance in one of the situations in which its role seemed clearest, when the trait under sexual selection is also locally adapted. Furthermore, sexual selection is lost in this Fisherian system if preference strengths themselves are allowed to evolve.
    http://www.pnas.org/content/ea.....4111.short
    http://crev.info/2014/05/two-darwinist-conundrums/

    Why Do We Invoke Darwin?
    Evolutionary theory contributes little to experimental biology – Philip S. Skell
    Excerpt: Further, Darwinian explanations for such things are often too supple: Natural selection makes humans self-centered and aggressive – except when it makes them altruistic and peaceable. Or natural selection produces virile men who eagerly spread their seed – except when it prefers men who are faithful protectors and providers. When an explanation is so supple that it can explain any behavior, it is difficult to test it experimentally, much less use it as a catalyst for scientific discovery.
    Darwinian evolution – whatever its other virtues – does not provide a fruitful heuristic in experimental biology. This becomes especially clear when we compare it with a heuristic framework such as the atomic model, which opens up structural chemistry and leads to advances in the synthesis of a multitude of new molecules of practical benefit.
    http://www.discovery.org/a/2816

    As to the uselessness of Darwinism as a catalyst for discovery:

    “Truth be told, evolution hasn’t yielded many practical or commercial benefits. Yes, bacteria evolve drug resistance, and yes, we must take countermeasures, but beyond that there is not much to say. Evolution cannot help us predict what new vaccines to manufacture because microbes evolve unpredictably. But hasn’t evolution helped guide animal and plant breeding? Not very much. Most improvement in crop plants and animals occurred long before we knew anything about evolution, and came about by people following the genetic principle of ‘like begets like’. Even now, as its practitioners admit, the field of quantitative genetics has been of little value in helping improve varieties. Future advances will almost certainly come from transgenics, which is not based on evolution at all.”
    Jerry Coyne, “Selling Darwin: Does it matter whether evolution has any commercial applications?,”

    “In fact, over the last 100 years, almost all of biology has proceeded independent of evolution, except evolutionary biology itself. Molecular biology, biochemistry, and physiology, have not taken evolution into account at all.”
    Marc Kirschner, Boston Globe, Oct. 23, 2005

    “While the great majority of biologists would probably agree with Theodosius Dobzhansky’s dictum that “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution”, most can conduct their work quite happily without particular reference to evolutionary ideas. Evolution would appear to be the indispensable unifying idea and, at the same time, a highly superflous one.”
    A.S. Wilkins, editor of the journal BioEssays, Introduction to “Evolutionary Processes” – (2000).

    As to the origin of sex in the first place, if evolution by natural selection were actually the truth about how all life came to be on Earth then the only ‘life’ that would be around would be extremely small organisms with the highest replication rate, and with the most mutational firepower, since only they, since they greatly outclass multi-cellular organism in terms of ‘reproductive success’, would be fittest to survive in the dog eat dog world where blind pitiless evolution rules and only the fittest are allowed to survive. The logic of this is nicely summed up here:

    Richard Dawkins interview with a ‘Darwinian’ physician goes off track – video
    Excerpt: “I am amazed, Richard, that what we call metazoans, multi-celled organisms, have actually been able to evolve, and the reason [for amazement] is that bacteria and viruses replicate so quickly — a few hours sometimes, they can reproduce themselves — that they can evolve very, very quickly. And we’re stuck with twenty years at least between generations. How is it that we resist infection when they can evolve so quickly to find ways around our defenses?”
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....62031.html

    In other words, since successful reproduction is all that really matters on a neo-Darwinian view of things, how can anything but successful reproduction be realistically ‘selected’ for? Any other function besides reproduction, such as sight, hearing, thinking, etc.., would be highly superfluous to the primary criteria of successfully reproducing, and should, on a Darwinian view, be discarded as so much excess baggage since it would, sooner or later, slow down successful reproduction.

    Another whack at the “sex paradox” – July 1, 2014
    Excerpt: The article is most informative about tests done on the various theses but in the end (they state). And so the paradox of sex lives on. “We still really don’t know the answer to this very most basic question,” says Mark Welch. “We don’t know why sex exists.”
    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....x-paradox/

    A few more related notes

    Sex Is Not About Promoting Genetic Variation, Researchers Argue – (July 7, 2011)
    Excerpt: Biology textbooks maintain that the main function of sex is to promote genetic diversity. But Henry Heng, Ph.D., associate professor in WSU’s Center for Molecular Medicine and Genetics, says that’s not the case.,,,
    ,,,the primary function of sex is not about promoting diversity. Rather, it’s about keeping the genome context — an organism’s complete collection of genes arranged by chromosome composition and topology — as unchanged as possible, thereby maintaining a species’ identity. This surprising analysis has been published as a cover article in a recent issue of the journal Evolution.,,,
    For nearly 130 years, traditional perceptions hold that asexual reproduction generates clone-like offspring and sexual reproduction leads to more diverse offspring. “In reality, however, the relationship is quite the opposite,” said Heng.,,,
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/re.....161037.htm

    Doubting Darwin: Algae Findings Surprise Scientists – April 28, 2014
    Excerpt: One of Charles Darwin’s hypotheses posits that closely related species will compete for food and other resources more strongly with one another than with distant relatives, because they occupy similar ecological niches. Most biologists long have accepted this to be true.
    Thus, three researchers were more than a little shaken to find that their experiments on fresh water green algae failed to support Darwin’s theory — at least in one case.
    “It was completely unexpected,” says Bradley Cardinale, associate professor in the University of Michigan’s school of natural resources & environment. “When we saw the results, we said ‘this can’t be.”‘ We sat there banging our heads against the wall. Darwin’s hypothesis has been with us for so long, how can it not be right?”
    The researchers ,,,— were so uncomfortable with their results that they spent the next several months trying to disprove their own work. But the research held up.,,,
    The scientists did not set out to disprove Darwin, but, in fact, to learn more about the genetic and ecological uniqueness of fresh water green algae so they could provide conservationists with useful data for decision-making. “We went into it assuming Darwin to be right, and expecting to come up with some real numbers for conservationists,” Cardinale says. “When we started coming up with numbers that showed he wasn’t right, we were completely baffled.”,,,
    Darwin “was obsessed with competition,” Cardinale says. “He assumed the whole world was composed of species competing with each other, but we found that one-third of the species of algae we studied actually like each other. They don’t grow as well unless you put them with another species. It may be that nature has a heck of a lot more mutualisms than we ever expected.
    “Maybe species are co-evolving,” he adds. “Maybe they are evolving together so they are more productive as a team than they are individually. We found that more than one-third of the time, that they like to be together. Maybe Darwin’s presumption that the world may be dominated by competition is wrong.”
    http://www.livescience.com/452.....f-bts.html

    Darwin ‘Wrong’: Species Living Together Does Not Encourage Evolution – December 20, 2013
    Excerpt: Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution set out in the Origin of Species has been proven wrong by scientists studying ovenbirds.
    Researchers at Oxford University found that species living together do not evolve differently to avoid competing with one another for food and habitats – a theory put forward by Darwin 150 years ago.
    The ovenbird is one of the most diverse bird families in the world and researchers were looking to establish the processes causing them to evolve.
    Published in Nature, the research compared the beaks, legs and songs of 90% of ovenbird species.
    Findings showed that while the birds living together were consistently more different than those living apart, this was the result of age differences. Once the variation of age was accounted for, birds that live together were more similar than those living separately – directly contradicting Darwin’s view.
    The species that lived together had beaks and legs no more different than those living apart,,,
    ,,,there is no shortage of evidence for competition driving divergent evolution in some very young lineages. But we found no evidence that this process explains differences across a much larger sample of species.,,,
    He said that the reasons why birds living together appear to evolve less are “difficult to explain”,,
    http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/darwi.....on-1429927

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