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Less than a year after he published “On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection” in 1859, Charles Darwin wrote in a letter to his friend Asa Gray that “…the sight of a feather in a peacock’s tail, whenever I gaze at it, makes me sick!” Darwin was worried that the peacock’s tail couldn’t possibly help in its survival, and thus could be construed as evidence against his grand theory of evolution by natural selection. Darwin subsequently figured out that while the expanded tail feathers of the peacock seemed to be injurious to its survival, they were essential for attracting a peahen—a second force of selection that he described in his 1871 book, “The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex,” and which is now called “Sexual Selection.”
Celebrate Father’s Day on Sunday, June 18th.
Jessica Yorzinski, PhD, Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX