Birds’ Mating Choices Prove Darwin’s Theory Right

Picture Credit: Saket Sundria

Among birds, the male of species tend to be the flamboyant showmen: they possess the looks, the voice and the moves to win over a potential mate. Still, intelligence may be the trump card needed for success.

New research shows that female birds prefer smarter males, a finding which aligns with one of Charles Darwin’s old theories that mate choices could contribute to the evolution of intelligence, the Times of India reported, citing an article in the journal, Science.

Researchers dealt with 34 small Australian parrots, known as budgerigars, to test the intuitive notion that a potential suitor’s smarts could outweigh style or songs.

A female bird was exhibited to two similar looking males, in a cage in which she could only interact with one at a time. Prior study designs like this have sufficiently shown that females tend to lean toward males with slightly nicer appearances, or more appealing songs.

This finding supports hypotheses, starting with that of Darwin, that sexual selection may positively affect the evolution of cognitive traits across animal species,” reported the study.

In other words, showing one’s social intelligence could gallantly help one reap more potential mates and better spread one’s DNA on to future generations.

Their brains may be tiny, but birds have been known to outshine children and apes. Until the 21st century, birds were largely disregarded as imbecile creatures. How smart can you be with a brain the size of a nut?

And yet the more we scrutinize bird intelligence, the more such presumptions are breaking down. Studies reveal that crows create tools. Ravens solve puzzles, and parrots boast a diverse vocabulary.

Some birds, fortunately, possess many of the intellectual capacities of non-human primates. Indeed, corvids (and possibly parrots) appear to rival the great apes in many psychological. Although corvids and parrots have brains that are the same relative size as chimpanzees, gorillas, and orangutans, bird and mammal brains are very different structures. Indeed, a piece of research have demonstrated that corvids and apes may render a case for convergent mental evolution (i.e. same cognitive processes, with the same outcome), but with divergent brains (i.e. very different brain structures).

Although recent changes in the nomenclature of the avian brain go some way towards adequately explaining how bird-brains can perform similar mental operations to mammalian brains, the brains themselves have not changed, only the manner we contemplate them. It may, therefore, be prudent to amend the earlier claim that bird and mammalian brains have diverged with consideration to their construction.

Although the gross structure of avian and mammalian brains is radically different, there is evidence that there are connectional similarities in the brains of these two taxa which may explain their similar behavior and cognition.