New Study Finds That Peacocks Aren’t the Victims of Evolution We Thought They Were

Written by Manon Verchot

Peacocks have long been considered the joke of evolution — their trains are glorious, but would get in the way if a leopard suddenly felt hungry. In many a biology class they have served as an example of natural selection favoring reproduction over an individual’s survival.

A new study from the University of Leeds has changed our understanding of these birds.

“Intuitively you expect that the train would detrimentally affect flight performance,” Dr. Askew, one of the lead scientists, said in a press release. “These birds do not seem to be making quite the sacrifices to look attractive we thought they were. These results therefore have broader ramifications for evolutionary biology’s understanding of sexual selection.”

The train, which can stretch almost 5 feet (1.5 meters), grows during breeding season and then molts off. Considering that they have more than 150 feathers and that each feather weighs about 10.5 ounces (300 grams), it’s hard to imagine how the train wouldn’t have much of an impact on flight.

But when scientists studied videos of peacocks taking flight with and without the train, they found that peacocks’ wing motions, power used to accelerate and center of mass stayed almost the same.

These findings will change how peacock evolution is considered, though more studies will need to be done to further understand the impact of train feathers.

“There could be other costs associated with possessing a train,” Askew told Huffington Post, “such as the energy invested in producing the feathers (about 3% of their daily energy budget), changes in maneuverability, and a potential cost of making the birds more conspicuous to predators.”

This post originally appeared on TreeHugger.

Photo Credit: Flickr user Madison Berndt

128 comments

Jim Ven
Jim Ven2 years ago

thanks for the article.

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Angev GERIDONI
Angev GERIDONI3 years ago

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Thank you for sharing

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Angev GERIDONI
Angev GERIDONI3 years ago

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Angev

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Jordan G.
Jordan G3 years ago

Wanted to raise one on my property until I heard they scream during the night. Didn't want my neighbors to kill me.

Anyway, their flight abilities make for interesting aerodynamic inquiries.

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Betty Kelly
Betty Kelly3 years ago

Maybe we should just leave the Peacocks alone because when we get interested we start interfering with their nature and causing them harm.

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Vicky P.
Vicky P3 years ago

interesting

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Margaret B.
Margaret B3 years ago

When I was a child we were taken to a local zoo (yes, I know) that had peacocks roaming the grounds. I thought they were beautiful but didn't think much else about them, until......I watched a documentary on India a few years ago. Peacocks got a prominent showing, and watching them fly way up into the trees, with that long tail, just amazed me. They have my admiration. Like many birds - so beautiful!!!

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John B.
John B3 years ago

Thanks for providing Manon Verchot's informative article. Quite interesting.

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Neil A.
Neil A3 years ago

NK do post to correct page!

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Neil A.
Neil A3 years ago

Peacocks do not have a disadvantage overall from their tails & attract many peahens & even breed in UK but are rather noisy & will dig up your veg patch if they get a chance!!

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