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Bio-bullets

Who chose the eyespots on the peacock?

The Indian peafowl has been attracted to cultivation for at least ten thousand years, long enough for humans inadvertently to have selected eyespots irrelevant for the sexual success of the male bird.

professor caricatureProf. Mumblebard claims: "The Indian peafowl is an uncomplicated example of a wild species commensal with humans. The tail display{njaccess 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8} has been sexually selected with no influence by humans, but in Indian traditions the species happens to be sacred and so it’s tolerated in settlements."{!njaccess}… See the hidden half of Prof. Mumblebard’s claim by subscribing here{/njaccess}

logoRobin and the Honey Badger respond: "The Indian peafowl goes beyond commensal and deserves to be called ‘hortensic’ – a word we’ve coined for it. The many eyespots on the tail of the male Indian peafowl are the result of inadvertent selective breeding based on human aesthetic preferences. Indeed, it’s evident that the eyespots on the tail appeal to humans while largely eluding explanation in terms of protective mimicry or sexual selection. Protective mimicry falls short as an explanation because the usual function of eyespots is to startle would-be predators by suggesting the appearance of a new, unidentified predator. Presenting a jumble of eyespots would spoil this effect. And sexual selection{njaccess 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8} isn’t a powerful explanation because eyespots should be no more attractive to peafowl than various other showy patterns would be. By contrast, a multiplicity of eyespots is appreciated by humans given their artistic capacity and particular perception of eye signals. Our alternative explanation could be tested by experiments to see which pattern is more attractive to females of the Indian peafowl: the eyespot pattern visible to the human eye or the ultraviolet pattern visible only to the bird."

speaker icon"In other words"

{!njaccess}… Reveal the hidden half of this response by Robin and the Honey Badger by subscribing here{/njaccess}


Please join us here at the Bio-edge with your own comments. In the discussion below we encourage links to any evidence supporting either Prof. Mumblebard or Robin and the Honey Badger. Illustrations are welcome but please cite all sources or we may be forced under copyright to delete your comment.

Why chose the eyespots on the peacock?

 

 

Last modified on 16 July 2015

Comments   

0 #1 Ornithophile 2014-02-11 14:51
Here’s a nice clip of a peacock really going all-out to impress a female. The humour is in the upstart teenager with the half-grown tail who thinks he has a chance too.
www.youtube.com/.../
0 #2 Naturapper 2014-02-12 17:11
@ornithophile. Can you imagine a peacock trying to defend itself from a tiger by displaying its tail? They must be joking, what tiger’s going to take that seriously?
0 #3 J. Ordsden 2014-02-13 11:55
@naturapper. And even if a peacock was much bigger than it is, why would a tiger find any number of false eyes intimidating? More than two eyes is self-defeating mimicry because it’s unrealistic. Anyway, like you I just don’t buy that peacocks use their tails to intimidate any animal except possibly some snakes.
0 #4 Cladman 2014-02-13 12:00
Why question that the pattern mimics a collection of eyes. It’s the simplest explanation, isn’t it?.
0 #5 P. Kumar 2014-02-13 12:08
You can see Indian pride in the peacock in our most modern airport terminal, which is also one of the artiest terminals in the world. There are all sorts of artwork but the peacock is the architectural theme. The design makes the eyespots on the tail into lights in the ceiling. Hear all about it here m.bbc.co.uk/.../...
0 #6 Zoophile 2014-03-07 12:03
Does this apply to the java green peafowl as well? I assume the javan/Indochine se bird is the ancestor and the Indian bird derived from it rather than the other way around. If so, we could expect the eyespots to be different in the java green peafowl and less recognisable to humans? That’s if the javan species is actually the primitive one and less evolved to be commensal with people.
0 #7 M. R. Zeman 2014-03-07 17:06
@ordsden. Agreed. When animals want to scare other animals with eyespots, they tend to use two realistic eyespots.

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