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Does Evolution has a role on beauty of Wood Duck bird?

  1. Mar 21, 2012 #1
    Does Evolution has a role on beauty of "Wood Duck" bird?

    Hey there,

    Lately I had a debate with a person on internet on whether beauty of Wood Duck has any relation to Evolution or not.

    At first he claimed that Evolution has nothing to do with beauty of species, and only narrow-minded people would assert that. However I refuted his comment by giving example of peacock: (The peacocks with well-formed and beautiful tail have higher chance to reproduce and pass their genes while rest of peacocks more probably lose the chance).

    Finally he took a step back and claimed Wood Duck has nothing to do with evolution as it's beauty does not serve Wood Duck's survival in any way or form, hence this beauty must be caused by god, not the evolution.

    My question for you is this:
    Why Wood Duck is so beautiful? Does its beauty has any survival benefit to it? If yes, kindly explain how.

    Note: By Wood Duck, I mean the following bird:

    Thank you very much.
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 21, 2012 #2
    Re: Does Evolution has a role on beauty of "Wood Duck" bird?

    Isn't beauty in the eye of the beholder? I mean, what a human considers beautiful could be ugly to a duck. Ugly Duckling
  4. Mar 22, 2012 #3


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    Re: Does Evolution has a role on beauty of "Wood Duck" bird?

    A trait does not have to increase survival to be advantageous, it only has to increase the chance that the organism will reproduce. Peacocks actually face a negative effect on their survival thanks to their ridiculously innapropriate tails that make them slow, unable to move easily through dense wood etc but the increase in reproductive fitness outweighs that.

    It's typical when factors in natural selection (predation, food/water scarcity, disease, climate etc) are minimal for sexual selection to dominate. Just look at any bird of paradise. Whoever you are arguing with has a misunderstanding (innevitable with creationists) of what evolutionary biology actually is.
  5. Mar 22, 2012 #4
    Re: Does Evolution has a role on beauty of "Wood Duck" bird?

    I agree with this. Beauty is a very subjective term and does not have a strict definition to begin with. So calling one phenotype as "beautiful" and another "not beautiful" is not valid (unless you clearly define those terms, no). In general however the features which most female birds of paradise consider attractive in their male counterparts (and which apparently humans too find "beautiful") evolved mainly due to sexual selection, often at the cost of survivability like Ryan said.
  6. Mar 22, 2012 #5


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    Re: Does Evolution has a role on beauty of "Wood Duck" bird?

    I think I agree with your debate partner, and perhaps you are misquoting him/her- evolution of another species has nothing to do with why humans would regard another species as being beautiful or not.

    You could ask the same question of why a rose is considered beautiful by humans and does evolution have any thing to do with making a rose flower beautiful. Hence your partners response, tongue in cheek no doubt that, to the reference of god, that if one uses the argument that species are sometimes beautiful for humans to appreciate than the cause can not be through evolution but because of another superior force - ie god. That is a very old argument used by those not familiar with the workings of evolution, and your debate partner was telling you that you are straying into the creationist line of thinking.

    Getting back to the rose. A rose bush does not "see" so it cannot tell whether or not humans can appreciate its flowering beauty, let alone another rose bush. The flower has evolved so as to attract pollinators such as insects so the rose species can reproduce, for the reasons listed in the other posts.
  7. Mar 23, 2012 #6
    Re: Does Evolution has a role on beauty of "Wood Duck" bird?

    I think you are discounting the objective aspect of beauty too much, or using the term too literally. Beauty is easy on the eyes. Symmatry symmatry symmatry. Other things can be included such as textures, (smooth is more "beautiful" than rough/jagged) but that starts getting into more subjective aspect of beauty.

    I would say though, that symmatry is a very common trait in things "subjectively" defined as beautiful. A gauge of genetic perfection; no?

    I am no biologist, but I see that as how it improves or aids suvivability(of species). A way to indicate just how well the individual developed from a genetic perspective, indicating the quality of genes in the individual. Yes this can "run away" into some pretty rediculas loooking phenotypes (such as chicks that are way to skinny :smile: j/k, that's not "genetic" evolution). None the less that's my half hazzard generally speaking guess of the "survival" aspect of beauty, the evolutionary purpose.

    Said different, a way to visually inspect the gene pool, and make sure it doesn't stray to far from the norm (desired). Thinking of it more I'd go as far to say it is a evolutionary requirement for such complex genetics.
    Last edited: Mar 23, 2012
  8. Mar 23, 2012 #7
    Re: Does Evolution has a role on beauty of "Wood Duck" bird?

    So you are suggesting that bees & birds & humans all see flowers as beautiful, and that it is coincidental, because???,,,,...

    The rose flower is beautiful, it is from evolution and it is a trait of the flower recognized by numerous species. That to me indicates the opposite of your reasoning. Note some flowers use "beauty" to attract prey, in other words is a trait that can provide comparative advantage for both sustanance &/or reproduction.

    Here are some short talks on beauty that IIRC are true to evolution theory & the reality of beauty.
    [/PLAIN] [Broken]
    Human perception of beauty

    Symmetry of things

    Photos of beauty

    There is more on the topic on TED. But these should define beauty in the context of evolution, beauty in this context is not, "...that chick has a nice rack." (although the argument could be made that...nvm :smile:)
    Last edited by a moderator: May 5, 2017
  9. Mar 23, 2012 #8
    Re: Does Evolution has a role on beauty of "Wood Duck" bird?

    That's very well said.

    Only hair I'd split is regarding the underlined part.

    When I first read of evolution, one of the first descriptions was the differences between survivability of species & of the individual, and that they are not always compatible short &/or long term. (was The Selfish Gene so no doubt it was a distintcion that had to be made).

    I found the distinction helpful in interpreting/guessing at evolutiony stuff.
  10. Mar 23, 2012 #9


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    Re: Does Evolution has a role on beauty of "Wood Duck" bird?

    That depends on the definition of beauty or is it just pattern recognition . No, my attempt was to show that one should not infer that what a human sees as beautiful all other species would see so also. Aand that beauty or rather pattern recognition has evolved species speciic and not just for the pleasure of humans. Clumsily worded and did not not get my point across, I concur. I hope that explains it better.
  11. Mar 24, 2012 #10
    Re: Does Evolution has a role on beauty of "Wood Duck" bird?

    Yea totally agree, but I'm saying beauty & your "pattern recognition" are not mutually exclusive. And that it's an evolutionary trait.
  12. Mar 24, 2012 #11


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    Re: Does Evolution has a role on beauty of "Wood Duck" bird?

    Agree to some extent.
    Are beauty & pattern recognition mutually inclusive?
    I would tend to think not.
  13. Mar 25, 2012 #12
    Re: Does Evolution has a role on beauty of "Wood Duck" bird?

    Not a good picture of a wood duck in it's natural surrounding I mean is that a concrete pond? Is that a male or female? Is the male more colorful than the female? Keep in mind evolution is not only about survival but rather survival and reproductive success. Does not excessive plumage and color offer some evidence to the female about the fitness of the male? Usually that's the case: if he has expendable energy (like diamonds), to waste on color and plumage, he must then be really healthy (same for guys). If so then I can see a selective advantage. He only has to live long enough to reproduce to make a contribution to the gene pool, so if the female takes a fancy to his colors as a sign of health even at the expense that those colors are deselective towards his long-term survival (easy for an aligator to see him on a log), then I would think his colorful plumage would still be selected.
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