Following the advice of colleague Antonio Prata, this column does not deal with terrible things like the coronavirus and genocide, which cannot be said, but with beautiful things. Neither from the piano, as Pratinha had promised, nor from the Japanese.
Poor person who has never seen a Japanese man, Psarocolius decumanus. Black as a moonless night, with unreasonable yellow feathers on the tail, ditto or an ivory-colored beak. Pure beauty.
The Song of Japu, a long, metallic joke, just doesn’t seem stranger than its nest. They are woven from fiber in the shape of a long bag, with an opening at the top, the most unpractical house imaginable.
Years ago, the Japanese hung nests on the leaves of a Jerivá palm in Santo Antônio do Pinhal (SP). The bag swayed in the wind, and one could imagine that the pendulum motion might have helped calm the pups in the ground.
Humans like to search for meaning and function in everything and project their own ideas about the animal universe. With a clear conscience, it does not seem plausible that the offspring of birds should be packaged in the way we do with babies.
The melody evidently obeys the imperative to attract women’s attention to copulation. But why on earth modulate the syringe and make these strange noises? It only makes sense if you can appreciate it.
The memory of the peculiarities of Japan awoke with reading the book “The Evolution of Beauty” by Richard O. Prum. The work bears the figure of a pheasant (Argusianus argus), a bird from Southeast Asia, and the subtitle “How Darwin’s forgotten theory of mate choice shapes the animal world” on the cover.
His chapter on the eccentric pheasant “Beauty happens” has a guaranteed place in the best non-fiction literature on natural history. It doesn’t look bad in front of Stephen Jay Gould, David Quammen or Carl Zimmer.
A. argus would not stand out from other, more colorful pheasants except for the large number of wing and tail feathers. What makes it unique is the weird cut to the female.
Videos are available on the network. It is supposed to humiliate every peacock. First the male clears an exhibition yard in the forest and leaves the land free. When a woman appears, the show begins.
The animal lifts the long feathers of each wing in a fan shape and projects them forward, forming a cone towards the female. Only then is the hidden part of the feathers revealed, each giving up to 15 shaded circles to resemble three-dimensional spheres.
In the pheasant’s field of vision, the cone should appear as a portable amphitheater adorned with hundreds of Christmas balls. Tail feathers flutter rhythmically up and down above the fan, while the man’s blue head reacts to the courtship under the exhibitionist feathers.
Prum is not in the description. In the best scientific prose, he draws a strong reflection on the sexual selection of women who, for him, are endowed with autonomy and aesthetic judgment when choosing a partner. And this regardless of the adaptive value that is signaled by the ornaments, as Darwinian orthodoxy claims.
The author argues that the prevalent eugenics among early Victorian evolutionists distorted the Darwinian field in order to deny Darwin’s second dangerous idea, the power of sexual selection that has nothing to do with the survival of the fittest. And that this would have implications for the human species, from resurgent patriarchalism to the war on feminism.
Better stop here because the suggestion was not to talk about ugly things. A few more paragraphs and it would be inevitable to mention genocide. Fortunately, space was tight.
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