The Argus Pheasant is a lifelong bachelor. He mates with multiple females but has no further contact with his mates or the baby pheasants he sires. By human terms, not much of a feminist.
Yet, he stages a chivalrous courtship on moonlit nights on a forest stage he clears with meticulous care. He sings and dances and pecks. He encompasses his 'date' in a cape of intricately-colored four-foot-long feathers. He ends with a bow.
Evolutionarily, there's no purpose for the spectacular feathers on the Argus Pheasant - unless you consider they may have evolved to satisfy the sexual preferences of the female Argus.
Darwin, while famous for his theory on evolution through battle for the fittest, also promoted a second, less popular theory of evolution through female sexual preference.
This theory may also shed light on evolved human traits and behaviors we don't need to survive - like female orgasm and same-sex preferences.
We first aired this show on December 20, 2017.
- Richard Prum - Evolutionary Ornithologist, Professor of Ornithology at Yale and the curator of Ornithology at the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History. He’s the author of The Evolution of Beauty: How Darwin’s Forgotten Theory of Mate Choice Shapes the Animal World - and Us.
- Patricia Brennan - Evolutionary Biologist, Behavioral Ecologist and visiting lecturer at Mount Holyoke College.
Colin McEnroe and Chion Wolf contributed to this show.