Washington, Sep 21 (ANI): A new study has found that patterned feathers, apparently used for camouflage in birds, are also vital for attracting a mate and keeping away the rivals.
University of Melbourne researcher Thanh-Lan Gluckman said this finding brought a new perspective to research in animal communication and evolution.
"The implication of this study is that feathers don't need to be bright and showy to be used in sexual signalling and hence this changes our understanding of animal communication.
"Since Darwin wrote of visual communication in birds, we have known that bright coloured feathers play a role in sexual signalling, for example to attract females. But the role of barred patterns as a communication signal has largely been overlooked," said Gluckman.
The study was a large-scale comparison of plumage of around 8900 bird species worldwide (90 percent of all bird species).
The researchers compared barred plumage and other patterns on the body of males, females, and juvenile birds, to assess what they might be used for.
While the researchers found evidence that barred plumage is predominantly used as camouflage, they also found that barred plumage was much more likely to appear only in males, or only at sexual maturity, compared to other patterns.
"Furthermore, we found these differences on the front of the birds, which is an important area for communication during face-to-face interactions, not on their back, which is more useful for camouflage when running away or hiding from predators.
"This is an exciting finding showing an elegant evolutionary solution to the needs of birds to camouflage as well as to signal to a potential mate or rival," she added.
The study was published in the Journal of Evolutionary Biology. (ANI)