The shimmering eyespots on the tail feathers of a dancing male peacock remain almost motionless as he shakes his plumage to impress a potential mate, according to a recent PLOS ONE study. This new finding brings scientists one step closer to understanding the biomechanics of peacock courtship.
The video above shows in real-time and in slow motion the various peacock courtship displays a male uses to court a peahen.
The footage was captured by the study authors, who used high-speed video and scanning electron microscopy to analyze “train-rattling” movements and eyespots on the tail feathers of 14 male peacocks. They found that males vibrate these feathers at or near resonance, which suggest that courtship displays may be energy-efficient.
The researchers also found that each eyespot has barbs that lock together much like flight feathers on other birds and give the eyespot more density than the surrounding barbs of the rest of the feather.
These findings show that peacock courtship is more intricate than originally thought. Suzanne Kane, a physicist at Haverford College and co-author of the study, says, “Charles Darwin observed that peacocks vibrate their feathers during courtship, but it took this multidisciplinary team of scientists to characterize the dynamics of this behavior.”
Research Article: Dakin R, McCrossan O, Hare JF, Montgomerie R, Amador Kane S (2016) Biomechanics of the Peacock’s Display: How Feather Structure and Resonance Influence Multimodal Signaling. PLoS ONE 11(4): e0152759. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0152759
Video Credit: S1 Movie of the manuscript.