Any ideas on the identity of this fine bird?
The male club-winged manakin (Machaeropterus deliciousus), native to the Equadorian/Colombian Andes, uses wing-produced sonations to attract a mate. The secondary wing feathers of the males are grossly enlarged and are resonated by the birds (at around 36 knocks in 0.33 seconds) to produce a harmonic ‘ting’ sound.
Fancy plumage, courtship behaviours and song in male birds are often the result of sexual selection by female choice. All of which are associated with a cost to males (whether energetic or a risk of predation) and provide females with an opportunity to assess male quality before deciding who contributes to their offspring.
Interestingly, the ulnae (wing-bones to which the secondary feathers are attached) are completely solidified in these males, with volumes three times greater than those in other birds of a similar size. Altogether, this results in a massive bone, which should assist with the sound production.
A solidified (not hollow) wing bone has never before been reported in a volant bird, and is perhaps, in this case, a consequence of female choosiness for song quality.
A cost to these males may be the loss of the benefits of hollow wing bones associated with improved flight efficiency in birds, representing a trade-off between mating success and fight efficiency.
Just a quick note to let people know that the Palaeontology Journal Club will be starting next Tuesday (23rd Nov.) at 5pm in Jabez Clegg. Each week we’ll be picking a new journal article, and meeting in the pub on the Tuesday to discuss it in a very informal setting. Students from any of the life sciences degrees are welcome to attend.
***as an added incentive, we’re even offering to buy the first round in***
This week’s paper is about ancient DNA. Researchers in New Zealand have tracked the decay rate of DNA in radiocarbon dated fossils of the Moa (an extinct giant ratite). They have found that, even under optimal burial conditions, DNA is unlikely to survive beyond 6-7 million years. Looks like InGen has been lying to us all these years….
You may have noticed that the Z-letter has a photo of the week section and we want you to get involved!
If you see or even better take a great animal photograph, post it to our Facebook site (https://www.facebook.com/groups/181100242027137/?fref=ts or search for the Z-letter) with some background about the image and we’ll stick the best ones up on the blog!
Can you guess the identity of our mystery animal? And for a bonus prize, what part of the animal’s anatomy is shown in the photograph?
Photo by A. van Casteren.