Although organisms obey the same physical laws as inanimate objects the evolutionary implications of these laws are often neglected. Physical factors influence the fitness value of traits and play an important role in the course of evolution. These are the areas of investigation that interest us.
Peacocks are known for their colorful mating displays, but it turns out there’s more to them than meets the eye. To help them gain a penhen’s attention, peacocks will sometimes rattle their train-feathers. The sound this makes is mostly below the range of human hearing, but the rustle creates subtle vortices in the air that cause the feathers atop a peahen’s head to vibrate. Playing back the sound at peahens from typical train-rattling distances also gets the females’ attention. Researchers found the playback makes peahens’ crests vibrate at a resonant frequency, suggesting that these feathers are for more than display; they’re used for communication as well! (Image and research credit: S. A. Kane et al.; video credit: Science)