Sexy show-offs burn out young
A new study finds that being the prettiest bird of them all may come with a downside ― early sexual burnout, livescience.com reported Thursday.
Male houbara bustards, found in deserts in the Southern Hemisphere, spend up to six months every year trying to charm female houbara bustards with elaborate feather displays.
The flashiest male birds that spend the longest stints posturing also have the highest-quality sperm, the new study shows, but things go downhill fast for the showiest houbara bustards, sexually speaking.
Study researcher Brian Preston of the University of Burgandy in France said in a statement, "This is the bird equivalent of the posers who strut their stuff in bars and nightclubs every weekend," according to the report. "If the bustard is anything to go by, these same guys will be reaching for their toupees sooner than they'd like."
Instead of impressing the ladies via gelled hair and bottle service, male houbara bustards "erect an ornamental “shield” of long white feathers in front of them as they begin to run at high speed, often circling a rock or bush," Preston and his colleagues wrote online Aug. 1 in the journal Ecology Letters.
The birds finish the performance by flaring black-and-white feathers covering parts of their bodies, and a series of subsonic calls.
Such energy-intensive mating displays cost males about 10 percent of their body mass over the mating season. The new analysis of 158,799 houbara bustard ejaculations finds that the displays eventually take their toll, livescience.com said.