BIOL 201 Many birds have bright, ornamental plumage

| June 14, 2018

Many birds have bright, ornamental plumage. Most often it is displayed by the male of thespecies, who is believed to use the plumage to attract females.The female may select male breeding partners on the basis of this feather advertisement, perhaps assessingtheir health. Darwin labeled such mate choice “sexual selection.” However, another possible form of plumageselection has been studied by biologists in Canada. They think that the parents of certain bird species may select the “prettiest” chicks out of anest as favorites. American coots are birds that live in the marshes of western North America. As adults they are grayish-black witha spot of white on their bills. Unlike most birds whose nestlings are drab, coot chicks are surprisingly conspicuous. They have long,slender black feathers tipped in orange, brilliant red papillae around their eyes, a bright red bill, and bald red head. The chicks lose this colorful appearance at 3weeks. Surprisingly, 1/2 of all coot chicks die from starvation. Canadian biologists speculated that the plumage may make some chicks more attractive to their parents; possibly the most “attractive” chicks might be able to successfully beg for more food from their parents.1) Formulate a hypothesis based on the above observations.2) What predictions (deductions) can you make if your hypothesis is correct? Be sure tospecify exactly how your prediction directly addresses your hypothesis.3) Outline how you can test your predictions, i.e., what exactly might you do if youwere the scientists who had studied coots for several years? Be sure to specify: exactly how your experiment(s) test your prediction, what your control group(s) are, what your experimental group(s) are, and the outcome(s) that will cause you to accept or reject your hypothesis

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