How One Naughty Bird Cheats With Fancy Feather Structures

In some ways, having the excess energy required to develop and maintain those feathers could actually turn out to be an honest signal. It takes protein to build them, and the bird needs to produce oils to keep them in good shape. They require constant pruning, too. So if it turns out that parasites attach more easily to these microstructures, that might mean a male would need to spend even more energy grooming himself. “The fact that you have that time, and you have those oils, and you had the feather in the first place—those might all be honest signals,” says Dumbacher. Basically: Not only am I as dapper as I claim in my dating profile, but I’m also free of parasites. Which, swoon.

But why go through all the trouble of evolving…

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