Thursday, December 13, 2012

Do Flashy Monogamists Exist?

Taking from last weeks post I'm going to mix in a little more of my real life along with your animal facts. Lately I have gone on a quest to bring out a little more of my inner femininity. Growing up I was always more of a tomboy, I loved sports (still do), had an easy time hanging with the boys, I still dislike drama filled girls, all this lead to me suppressing my inner girl. Anyone who knows me realize how laughable this ultimately is. I'm blessed with a natural Scarlett Johansen, Kim Kardashian body. I'm pretty sure my skeleton has some hips on it and lets just say I definitely won't be needing implants anytime soon. No matter how much I have tried to discourage my inner girl, every time I stared in the mirror I would get a constant reminder of looking as feminine as one can be. Instead of fighting it, I have decided to embrace it and discovered I love being a girl. It is really nice to have a drink bought for you, dress up in high heels, do crazy things with my hair, being a girl is basically free license to experiment with whatever look I want. Being a scientist means experimentation and new discoveries is pretty much my drug of choice.

My aptitude towards tomboy tendencies isn't very uncommon in the animal kingdom. The males of most species are typically the bright and colorful ones. They need bright and colorful plumage to attract the opposite sex during mating season. The females need dull muted coloring to blend in with their environment, staying hidden to protect their young. Take peacocks for example, the males have giant feathers in a rainbow of colors, where their peahen counter parts are left with muddy brown minuscule feathers. There are some examples of colorful female animals, but they appear in polyandrous species (where the female mates with multiple males) seen in: parrots, hummingbirds, angelfish and butterfly fish. Often in these cases the males are plainer in coloring and left with doing the child rearing. It makes morphological sense for the females to be brightly colored so they can attract multiple mates.

Monogamy in the animal kingdom is actually quite rare, this excuse has been a favorite of playboys like Hugh Hefner as a reason to have a plethora of girlfriends. When I picture my ideal reality I'm not with multiple partners but one special one. But are there are monogamous brightly colored female animals? Is it even remotely in my DNA to be monogamous? The answer came in one of my favorite animals,  the mimic poison frog, R. imitator. The current belief of monogamy started by Devra Kleiman is that it evolved as a life history strategy when biparental care becomes critical to offspring survival. In this situation, both parents may experience higher reproductive success by investing in their mutual offspring instead of seeking extra pair reproductive opportunities [DOI: 10.1086/409721]. The female will lay her eggs in water, then the male will transport them to trophic level plants with pools of water in them away from hungry predators. The female will then lay non-fertile eggs in the small pools to feed the growing tadpoles. Other poison dart frog species are not monogamous and their offspring have lower survival rates.

Rainbow Bright for Halloween
 So channel your inner mimic poison frog, be colorful, flashy, and different, all the while searching for that perfect partner to raise your tadpoles with.

Happy hunting,

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