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I'm just going to say it: Some birds can be a little much. Overdressed, pairing colors that would anger Stacy and Clinton, sporting accessories of impractical proportions. They're the Lady Gagas of the natural world. Why would anything be born this way?
The answer, of course, is evolution. Or more specifically a type of sexual selection where one sex's preference for certain traits in a mate influences, over generations, the characteristics of the opposite sex. (Think peacock feathers or giant antlers.)
Sexual selection is the driving force behind the amazing diversity of colors, feathers and behaviors in the family of birds known as birds-of-paradise, according toCornell Lab of Ornithology scientist Edwin Scholes.
"The females are going around looking at all the adult males in their home ranges and choosing the ones that are most appealing in some way," says Scholes. "Usually the males that are the most extreme in colors or behavior are fathering the most offspring." In other words, the flashiest male gets the girl.
The pair spent some eight years documenting the birds-of-paradise (family Paradisaeidae) living in the New Guinea region. After 18 expeditions to the area, they accomplished something that hadn't been done before--they tracked and photographed each one of the 39 bird-of-paradise species in the wild.