In the courtship dance of a male South American bird, the Club-winged Manakin, Machaeropterus deliciosus, rubbing and vibrating specialized wing feathers together creates a courting melody to attract their mates, according to a report in Science.
Since Darwin proposed his theories of selection and evolution, it has been posed that sounds made by the feathers of some birds evolved by sexual selection. Richard O. Prum, the William Robertson Coe Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Yale, and his former student Kimberly S. Bostwick, a curator in the birds and mammals division of Cornells Museum of Vertebrates and a research associate in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, describe a mechanism unique among vertebrates that supports this theory.
Using high-speed digital video recordings of the courtship displays, they show that males produce sustained, harmonic tones by rubbing together secondary wing feathers. These highly specialized feathers have shafts that are enlarged hollow, club-like structures. They are bent and slightly twisted so that the ends can touch each other creating a ringing "Tick–Tick–Ting" song when rubbed together.
Janet Rettig Emanuel | EurekAlert!
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