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The Eyes Have It

by Dr. Elizabeth Mitchell on April 30, 2011
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ScienceNews: The eyespots have it after allSo with peacocks—the classic Darwinian example of sexual selection—do the eyes have it or not?

Darwin said that peacocks with the most impressive plumage reproduce most successfully. But do they? And if so, why?

Investigations concerning the second question have explored everything from survival disadvantages of highly visible, cumbersome plumage to a search for links between the immune system and feather quality.

This study re-explored the question of whether peacocks with more eyespots attract females better or not. Previous studies produced contradictory results. The present study found a threshold below which males could not attract mates. Researchers concluded there must be a multiple factors involved in successful peacock courtship.

Impressive feather development requires so many factors, regulated by different genes, to be present at once that none of them could have evolved with a survival advantage individually.

At a molecular level, the evolutionary view of peacock plumage cannot answer the problem of irreducible complexity. In other words, impressive feather development requires so many factors, regulated by different genes, to be present at once that none of them could have evolved with a survival advantage individually.

Finally, if pretty peacocks successfully court lots of peahens and produce lots of pretty offspring, they have not advanced the cause of evolution at all because they have not produced a new kind of animal or even evolved new information. Their offspring are still peafowl whose genomes consist only of reshuffled peafowl genes.

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