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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Eyes in the Tail?

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Can eyes be in tails? No. I tell you, it can be. Better check. Well I am talking about the 'eyes' in the plumage of peacocks. You must have been fascinated by the resplendent colours of the peacock’s tail, at least once in your life. If you have seen the dance of the male peacock, you must have been mesmerized.

Feathers of peacocks are used for decoration at homes. It is so much admired by people that patterns of peacock find a regular place in the motifs of sarees, kurtis and many times articles used in home decor. Lyrics portray the poet’s romantic mood in semblance with peacock dance. Dancers have specific gait for peacocks in the classical and folk dance forms in India. 

Small girls keep the feathers of peacock in their notebooks, nourish it with chalk dust in their classrooms and believe one day they will duplicate. Many are keen on getting the feather in their notebooks doubled. I too was. Conservation fruits but myths do not.

The way these birds have adapted with the changing scenario of the earth is commendable. They have survived dramatic climatic changes, predators and man's destructive activities. Unlike the small sparrow which has been put into red data list of IUCN, peacock continues to maintain its number that is significant to be called stable.

Why it has been so, as in why it continues to survive despite many adversities that are present? Is it because it is the bird of God? Scientists do not agree to the fact that as people in India love the bird, they choose to protect them. In Indian mythology it is believed that peacock had dull feathers long ago. But it helpedIndra from the asura Ravana in a battle. And in gratitude Indra had made his feathers iridescent.In human society, the female sex is identified with ornamentation. But in peafowl, "Pride of India-Peacock", males exhibit biological ornaments-the iridescent feathers in its tail. 

The peacock dances to attract peahen for mating. Peahens choose that male to be their potential mates which have numerous eyes in the tails. The eyes in peacock’s tail can be seen whenever it fans its feathers.
 The more the number of the eyes or eyespots, the healthier is the peacock. As in making the plumage body's energy is used and those who have all life-processes running on smoothly can only expend their energy in the making of the plumage. 

Females assure that this gene of ‘show off' is passed on to the up coming generation. Thus this admiration that the peacocks get is a tradition based on genetic selection of the visible trait by their females.
What is even more fascinating is that the bright colours of the eyes in the train(peacocks’ tail) are not mainly due to pigments present. But they are due to the visible effect that is produced by interaction of light with small structures as barbs and barbules present in the feathers!
Key Words: eyes, tail,females, eye spots 
LATIKA MISHRA www.biologicalramblings.blogspot.com

Image Courtesy: signilogy.org

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