PBS Documentary on Animal Reproduction: Why Sex?

Peacock

The colorful feathers of peacocks have inspired a lot of art, science, and even frustration. Charles Darwin had a notorious hate for peacocks; their feathers made no sense to him. Nowadays we have more insight on this evolutionary issue.

“We may conclude that…those males which are best able by their various charms to please or excite the female, are under ordinary circumstances accepted. If this be admitted, there is not much difficulty in understanding how male birds have gradually acquired their ornamental characters. In all ordinary cases, the male is so eager that he will accept any female, and does not, as far as we can judge, prefer one to the other.” — Charles Darwin

The following video–of about one hour of duration–begins with a very poignant explanation of the advantages of peacock feathers:

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53 thoughts on “PBS Documentary on Animal Reproduction: Why Sex?

  1. I am amazed by this video; it’s interesting how important it is mating between a female and a male to evolution. This video can prove that males are needed in order to have genetic variation because if not there wouldn’t be variation amongst species. Thus is something were to happen to Earth causing species to evolve then many of those species that don’t have genetic variation would probably go extinct since species don’t have space to change and find a genetic combination that will help them survive. I researched more information about Evolutionary Psychology since the theory it’s extremely interesting so if anyone would like to access it here is the link:

    http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/evolutionary-psychology/

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    • The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy is an excellent reference source, Alexandra. I use it all the time.
      Genetic variation is a very important evolutionary milestone for the exact reasons you just described. But if we take the case of parthenogenesis–the origin of an organism from an unfertilized gamete, usually an egg–then males are not that necessary.

      Luckily for human males, parthenogenesis is not a viable reproductive alternative for human females.

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  2. I am amazed with this video. It’s interesting how important it is the sexual reproduction for evolution and to have male and female union. This union is important to continue the life in the world.

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  3. All organisms have a way to attract each other, without that there wouldn’t be any reproduction or evolution. Like for example, if flowers han’t had such vivid colors then bees wouldn’t be attract to collect pollen and flowers would die and so bees and so on..

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  4. Its interesting how in non “intelligent” life there ca be such a high level of organization. In this video we can see how aesthetics play an important part in evolution and mating. Bright colars are used by male birds to attract females. But not only birds, also a species of chameleons called Panther Chameleons use bright colors such as blue, red and orange to attract females. Usually females are gray, and males colorful, since they are the ones who have to atract the female.

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    • Its obviously known that the males are the ones that need to attract the females since they are the ones that have bright colors and attractive ones and the females have the opaque colors, so im in favor with my collegue Adrian.

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      • So, Fabiola, do you mean that males have to do all the work when it comes to finding mates? Aren’t there any other species in which this fact is the opposite? I encourage yo to do reasearch, and find wether the opposite might be true.

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  5. I remember teacher that you told me that animals reproduce sexually altering our genes from infections or diseases, unlike bacteria that reproduce asexually and that although they reproduce faster they can al be killed by the same way something killed the first bacteria.

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  6. It is impressive how these animals reproduce and it is evident that in most cases,the male is needed to reproduce. I loved the peacock and I think they are beautiful. I hadn’t thought about Ana Valeria’s example of the flower and it is true. I was searching on the topic and found this article which I found funny and interesting. http://www.justmegawatt.com/articles/crazy-ways-animals-have-sex.html and this one also about a female shark reproducing while not needing a male shark! http://www.livescience.com/7585-shark-pregnant-males-required.html

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  7. Im surprised at how birds mate, some by their colors others by kinda dancing. Animals are so outstanding, we can learn so much from them. Also, how all animals have a different way of reproduction is incredible.

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  8. Genetically we are all very different i am truly amazed by how different we are . from giving birth to being able to cut off a piece of an animal and a new one will come out of that one! Wow it is just fantastic how nature works!

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  9. The different kinds of mating rituals demonstrated in the video were interesting, its amazing how different species of animals each have their own special way of showing off to the opposite gender. I found the dancing birds to be kind of funny especially when the female flies off leaving the male disappointed i guess. Its sad, really, for all of those men out there who have ever gotten rejected, we’re not alone. But seriously it is amazing how an asexual species (i.e. the lizard presented by the video) is able to even survive! Being exact clones of their mothers, they should display very little to no genetic variability between each other. Am I the only one who thinks this species will die off as soon as any aspect of the environment changes, requiring them to adapt?

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    • Although genetic mutations might account for some availabilities that could help a species adapt to a changing environment without the need for males, Is it really enough?

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    • I believe you are correct. Even when parthenogenesis is a convenient enough method of reproduction, especially when it is hard to find a suitable mate, genetic variability is lacking. That is why parthenogenesis is not that common in the animal kingdom. The next few centuries wil harshly test these parthenogenetic species; climate change is happening at an unprecedented pace.

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  10. is impresive to see how organisms can reproduce altering genes making a totally different organism more strong and protected genetically to diseases. the way organisms attract each other for example the male peacock with his amazing feathers its really interesting. They may not think but each organism has a very interesting way of atracting the opposite sex.

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  11. Or is the advantage of not needing to find another organism to reproduce a big enough advantage to overlook a lack of variability? It might be. Organisms like this can definitely reproduce efficiently and swiftly, without the need to attract other organisms with mating rituals, it sounds like it would save you some time!

    And yes I realize I’m replying to my own comments, I’m a lonely person ok… 😦

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  12. i see how important it is for female and males to reproduce these ways, its very interesting. i also like that most males or all males have to have nice color, or nice feathers to try and see if theycan get the attention and impress the female they want

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  13. I found this video to be amazing and it taught be so much more of how this animals act to attract the opposite sex. And I do agree with David Conde when he commented that some would not need to find another organism to reproduce a big enough advantage to overlook a lack of variability! In my opinión the environmet surrounding them does have a great impact on how they act with each other.

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  14. The photo is amazingly beautiful.and the video even better. It proves that matting is greatly important for evolution and that u need both male and female to have life and to prevent the extinction of a spice. Like i said before both the photo and the video are beautiful.

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  15. Sex in animal life is like a necessity. Life without sex could not be possible because there would be NO LIFE! Through sex there’s evolution wich is another important aspect of life

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  16. I agree with Eduardo sex is an important thing in animal life and plays a key role in evolution because in order to organisms to evolve there must be reproduction in order for them to develop into another one.

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  17. It is a shame that society has affected our views so much that we see sex as something taboo or shameful. I am glad that there are documentaries like these to remind us that sex is a beautiful aspect of life and nature. Marylin Monroe once said “Sex is part of nature. I go along with nature” (http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/47739-sex-is-part-of-nature-i-go-along-with-nature) and I admire her bravery to accept nature in her life this way rather than turn it down because of what others may think.

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  18. I would say that sexual reproduction has been the greatest advance in evolutionary history. Animals, although not all, have sex sex simply for pleasure such as humans. what interests me to know is that if not for pleasure what gives the animals the urge to reproduce?

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    • DNA is the molecule of life. The molecule of life is the only self-replicating molecule that humanity knows of.

      DNA replicates, your cells grow in number.
      Neurons burn glucose, ventricles pump blood.

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  19. in my mind i think their are two different genders for different duties the male does hard labor and the woman does softer labor( but just as important) now i believe this because of the difference in hormones that are in each body, a woman could not go hunting with a baby inside of her.. so that said at least for humans having 2 different genders is a good idea another reason why i think there are 2 genders is because if a woman having to do A sexual reproduction might take too much energy or to much priority when it should not, so while your body is concentrated in cloning itself doing the job of both male and female it might lose efficiency in her immune system or other and become ill or make her weak and since there is no macho man to protect her she could be…. killed or worse.

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    • Genders are a basic part of the human experience, and we have to experience them aware of our surroundings. There’s always a lot of controversy when people talk about gender.

      30,000 years ago, when ancient humans were painting masterpieces on the walls of Chauvet–before agriculture–, human beings gathered and hunted.

      Upper body strength of males, wide female pelvis, right brain, left brain, etc., contributed to the relative success of Homo sapiens.

      My recommendations:

      The Wikipedia article for ‘Human’.
      The film Cave of Forgotten Dreams (2011).

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  20. I qas very amazed by this video.
    Now i undersand the importance of mating amongst species. For humans it can mean more than just reproduction, but in the end, it is what will create the future carriers of our getetic information eventhought it only half the amount .

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  21. it is incredible the different ways of different animals to attract the opposite sex and how the peacock uses his colors to do so !

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  22. The fact that interested me the most was that when animals do sexual reproduction they don’t differentiate between one animal or the other they all just look the same for the males. Also that their is another reason why animals do reproduction not simply because of their pleasure but also because of the evolution of the world. This proves that we are a lot different than animals and we have a different way of thinking when it comes to this topic.

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  23. it’s interesting to see how mating is so important to evolution. It’s impresive how organisms can reproduce altering genes and making a totally different organism more protected genetically from diseases and stronger.

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