Condensed Matter Seminar: "Physics of the Peacock’s Dance"
Peacocks are the textbook example of an elaborate mating display--and hence of sexual selection in evolution. To seduce females, male peafowl perform a complicated dance in which they tilt, pivot and shake their elaborate, iridescent train feathers to present a dazzling visual display accompanied by mechanical sounds. The eye-like ocelli that decorate these feathers are structurally-colored: their vivid hues change with viewing angle because they arise from interference of light with photonic crystals of melanin nanorods. Furthermore, like many birds, peacocks have exceptional color vision, including the ability to see into the ultraviolet. I will explain how we are using a combination of field studies of displaying peacocks, reflectance spectroscopy, computer modeling, bioacoustic methods and multispectral imaging to capture the dynamics of the peacock’s multimodal signals. Our goal is to understand how peacocks exploit the directionality of these color signals in their courtship displays, and ultimately how these displays evolve.