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Male birds-of-paradise are famous for their showmanship: wildly extravagant plumage, complex vocal arrangements and shape-shifting dance moves. New research published in the open-access journal PLOS Biology suggests for the first time that everything in those male theatrical breeding displays is driven by one thing: the female.

A team led by Cornell Lab of Ornithology postdoctoral researcher Russell Ligon examined almost 1,000 video clips and 200 audio clips from the Cornell Lab’s Macaulay Library of natural history media, along with nearly 400 specimens from the American Museum of Natural History, to analyze the richness and diversity of the colors, dancing and sounds of breeding displays by male birds-of-paradise. The research is the first to suggest that it is the combination of physical and behavioral traits that enable elaborate plumages and behaviors to evolve in the first place.