Bowerbirds are one of my favorite animal cyborgs! Consider the fact that peacocks and other birds grow elaborate feathers to attract mates. For them, it might take generations for an attractive feature to work its way into the gene pool. Bowerbirds use their bowers for the same purpose (to attract mates), but because their resources are external objects, bowerbirds can switch them around as often as they like to develop just the right mix to attract mates. In some species of bowerbird, the characteristics of the bowers will differ between individual birds of the same species, and those birds might entirely redecorate their bowers multiple times a season! The bowers are so elaborate that early Western explorers routinely mistook bowers to be the homes of tiny people!
Bowerbirds have literally extended their reproductively salient characteristics into their bowers. This externalization has some surprising consequences: bowerbirds have become extraordinarily cunning and deceptive. Instead of fighting each other (as male peacocks tend to do), theivery and vandalism are common among mature male bowerbirds. It's a great example of the use of technology in nature, and how it augments the drive for biological fitness.
Some great links below. David Attenborough has also done a few bowerbird specials that are worth finding and watching.
Thanks for the link!
Rajini Rao originally shared this post:
BUILDING A BOUDOIR Who knew that gardening was an act of seduction? Male bowerbirds are famed for their elaborate nests, decorated over the years with colorful trinkets and flowers. Researchers have now learned that Australian bowerbirds are gardeners with a flair for genetic engineering.
• They noticed that bowers were always surrounded by a lush garden of potato bushes (Solanum ellipticum), with bright purple flowers and round green fruits. Observation showed that the birds were not choosing areas with these bushes; rather, by bringing green fruit into the area, they became "cultivators" (whether intentionally or not, we don't know). Since they choose the brightest fruits, they effectively select specific genotypes.
• Bowerbirds are master engineers. They construct their bowers so that they look bigger than they really are when sitting in them. They clear litter and leaves from around their bowers, protecting them from fire and create the perfect garden space. So get gardening, guys.
Amazing bower constructions: Life – The Vogelkop Bowerbird: Nature's Great Seducer – BBC One
Courtship dance set to music: Flame bowerbird display, parade du paradisier du prince d'Orange
Reference: Madden et al., 2012. Male spotted bowerbirds propagate fruit for use in their sexual display. Current Biology http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2012.02.057