Wild Things: Life as We Know It
Orchids, Baboons, Ancient Reptiles and More...
- By T. A. Frail, Jesse Rhodes, Jessica Righthand, Brandon Springer and Sarah Zielinski
- Smithsonian magazine, September 2010
Name: Carpodacus mexicanus, or the house finch.
Color Counts: Males’ plumage ranges from pale yellow to deep red, and females find males at the red end of the spectrum most attractive.
But Context Matters: Yellowish males try to make themselves look better by hanging out with males that are even yellower, according to a study from the University of Arizona.
And Sometimes Wins: Yellowish or orangish males that changed their social context “had nearly the same success in attracting females as did the most colorful males,” says co-author Kevin Oh. In other words, an individual male’s social networking can overcome a physical disadvantage.
Learn more about house finches at the Encyclopedia of Life.
“Resolution of Body Temperature by Some Mesozoic Marine Reptiles,” Aurélien Bernard et al., Science, June 11, 2010
“Lord of the Flies: Pollination of Dracula Orchids,” Lorena Endara et al., Lankesteriana, April 2010
“Structure of Social Networks in a Passerine Bird: Consequences for Sexual Selection and the Evolution of Mating Strategies,” Kevin P. Oh and Alexander V. Badyaev, The American Naturalist, September 2010
“Strong and Consistent Social Bonds Enhance the Longevity of Female Baboons,” Joan B. Silk et al., Current Biology, August 10, 2010
“The Function of Bilateral Odor Arrival Time Differences in Olfactory Orientation of Sharks,” Jayne M. Gardiner and Jelle Atema, Current Biology, July 13, 2010