2005-06-01

Hard Wired for the Artist

Last night, the Amazon and I enjoyed an episode of NOVA about the courtship rituals of the Bowerbird.

I've lifted a summary of this bird's behaviour from another web-site:

The star of this unusual menagerie, however, is the male bower bird, an accomplished avian architect that has long fascinated scientists with its remarkably complex courting behavior. Instead of using just showy plumes or a romantic melody to attract a mate, the pigeon-sized bower bird constructs an elaborate structure -- a bower -- on the forest floor from twigs, leaves, and moss. It then decorates the bower with colorful baubles, from feathers and pebbles to berries and shells.

The bowers aren't nests for raising kids; they are bachelor pads designed to attract and seduce one or more mates. When a female arrives to inspect the bower, the male struts and sings. He hopes to convince her to enter the bower, where mating takes place. The female then flies off to build a nest close by, leaving the male to try to convince another female to join in a romantic tryst.

This appears to be the only example in nature where a male uses inanimate objects for purposes of attracting a mate. The choice considered by the female rests purely on some form of aesthetic appeal. Moreover, the more cluttered and messy a male's bower construction looks, the less likely he is to mate. Other males will even mess up their competitors' unguarded constructions so as to lessen the competition. As for the females' behaviour, it's pretty simple. If I like your art, you've won me.Bower with bird

So maybe 5M, much like the female bowerbird, is more instinctual in her pursuit than we give her credit for.

3 comments:

coyote said...

Interesting stuff, chair. You make a case. But I bet it doesn't have to be 'art', just 'stuff'. Humans use all sorts of inanimate objects and decorations in their attempts to attract mates, with varying levels of success. Small town prairie boys, for example, believe (for reasons that pretty much escape everybody but them) that putting mag wheels and big tires on a jacked-up Ford half ton will do the trick. Somewhat more advanced, but still callow, types at one point relied upon black light posters and black acetate satin sheets on waterbeds redolent of vinyl and fungicide... not a stellar period in the mating history of mankind. Older, smoother operators in other parts of the world dangle imported European sports cars and jewellery. Kinda makes ya wonder, really, just how far above that basic lizard-brain thinking process people have evolved.

5M may indeed be attracted to the artistic side in her choices. But consistently? What are we to make, then, of digressions and disappointments like the recent e'M'gineer? Great sex? The attraction of his bower, as I recall, seems to have been a handy shower after hot yoga.

4th Dwarf said...

In my younger days, it was all about who could find the biggest chunk of gold.

Then there was a period where the lads were all competing for who had the best stereo.

Nowadays, I know one fellow who has perfected the Cosmopolitan and several other panty-removing cocktails.

It's a shame we don't have Conch Shell and Agatha around to comment on this topic.

Agatha said...

Where I'm going on the Orient Express, the half-ton pick-up is also a hot bower item. In fact, the term "truck sluts" was coined in that part of the world. I'm old dame, but when I'm investigating a bower, I, like the bowerbird, like to see a semblance of order, but not too much. Too much order suggests that there is something to hide. A decent CD and book collection is noted. A pair of hip waders would have a lot of currency. A small fishing vessel would have even more. A pair of hip waders, a small fishing vessel and a bottle of rum would constitute the perfect bower for this bowerbird.