Peacock Tactics

Fact: Humans and Chimps share 98.5% of the same DNA; even more astonishing is the fact that we share about ¾ of our DNA with earthworms (maybe there is a genetic basis to the mounting popularity of dreadlocks, m’on). These scientific facts are important to keep in mind when making contributions to WikiAnswers areas that involve biology, zoology, genetics and of course, the never-ending and wonderfully complex area of human psychology.

As a former zookeeper and now a supervisor of the mental health category on WikiAnswers, I would often come across a question about people, communication and relationships and link it to a theory or explanation stemming from scientific literature, in the field of animal behavior.

I will make my case in point:

WA animal Question: “Why does a peacock have multicolored feathers?’

This brought me back to a mental health question I had read the other day- “How can a man attract women?”

Let’s begin with the first question which has a simple concrete answer grounded on scientific fact. A peacock, Pavo Cristatus, has multicolored feathers so he can attract and mate with as many peahens as possible. The bright plumage draws attention to the male; showing off his vibrant feathers is a sign of health. His unnaturally large and disproportionate tail, which would otherwise hinder an animal’s survival, is proof of his successful survivability; this is known as Handicap Theory. The loud peafowl call that echoes through the woods is a symbol of his dominance and vigor. His heavy tail-waiving and dancing is a sign of strength. The entire display has the peahens swooning, or scientifically speaking ‘sexually selecting’ the male, which in turn ensures the production of future offspring.

Now we can begin to understand the answer to the question “How can a man attract women?” Note: man is a singular word and women is plural- He does not want to attract a woman, or the woman- he wants to attract ‘em all.

This can be quite difficult because, unfortunately for males of the human species, they do not have multicolored feathers to draw attention to themselves. They achieve this in other ways: Large cumbersome biceps, absurd displays of bravado and pretending to enjoy ‘Sixteen Candles’ are some examples. Of course, it always helps to drive a convertible, hood down, wearing some bling. And just so you know, bling can come in many forms- from a 24-karat diamond studded chain to the latest iPhone – a bit more age appropriate for the older folks, not that age has ever been a discriminating factor.

In fact, peacocks can live up to 15 years- and are fully capable of breeding in the last years of their life. It may be hard to believe that even in its ripe old age, the senior citizen peacock will continue attempts to win over the peahens. By waving its tail, now wrought with arthritis, and sounding the mating call through its beak dentures – he will use every last ounce of energy for the shot at attracting the peahen.

Maybe the peacock would have it a bit easier if he knew what the peahen really wanted was for him to clean up the nest, complement her on how beautiful her feathers grew in after the molt, or catch a few worms for dinner once in a while, without being asked. But what do they know? They are just silly birds…

Coming up next: Zebra stripes and workers’ strikes- They have more in common than you think…

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