Friday, November 06, 2009

Match.com

As a service to lovers everywhere, Science Musings has previously considered the perennial question, "What does the other half want?"

But before I return to that muddlesome topic, take a minute or so to watch this video of the courtship display of the spatuletail hummingbird of Peru.

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I don't know if what you have just watched is an argument for natural selection or for intelligent design. If the latter, the Designer has a quirky sense of humor. If the former, the male spatuletail hummingbird has been dealt an unfortunate hand by female sexual preference.

Hummingbirds live on the metabolic edge, burning up calories as fast as they can stoke themselves with nectar, and this poor fellow has to carry around those two absurdly long tail feathers that serve no other purpose than pleasing a potential mate. And think of the energy required to wave them so seductively.

Did he score? Or did she sit there waiting for another fellow with slightly longer flags, all that exhausting foreplay for nothing. If the male spatuletail hummingbird is able to formulate an inarticulate thought, it is surely the same one men have always asked: "What do women want?"