Research Shows Good-Looking Birds Are Terrible Singers

iStock.com/CraigRJD
iStock.com/CraigRJD

Humans sometimes fall prey to a stereotype in which the objectively attractive appear to need to do less in order to be successful, while the genetically less fortunate may have to work harder in order to present themselves as viable mates.

It turns out the Brad Pitts of the bird world may demonstrate a similar dynamic. In new research published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, male birds with bright, pleasing feathers tended to be terrible singers, while birds who had comparatively plain features could make it at Carnegie Hall. Put another way: Ugly birds need to have a musical back-up plan.

The study, which was conducted at the University of Oxford, looked at 518 different bird species and logged their distinctive songs used to attract mates. They compared the bird’s warbling to their feathers and whether their plumage differed from the opposite sex, which shows that natural selection played a role in their appearance. Birds that had flashy looks tended to sing rather dull songs that were monotonous in tone. Birds whose feathers mirrored those of the opposite sex, and therefore needed to stand out in other ways, had songs that lasted longer and featured more musical notes.

Researchers can’t state definitively why birds evolved one appealing feature at the expense of the other. In dense forests, it might be more advantageous to sound pleasing than to rely on one’s obscured good looks, though the study found no direct evidence of that. But it does appear that birds who can’t rely solely on their appearance have evolved to make themselves stand out in other ways. Likewise, pretty birds have little incentive to develop a second strategy for pairing up. These cocky avian suitors are so good-looking they don’t need to make the effort. The rest need to sing their little hearts out.

[h/t New Scientist]

Australian Island Wants Visitors to Stop Taking Wombat Selfies

iStock.com/LukeWaitPhotography
iStock.com/LukeWaitPhotography

Spending a day observing Australian wildlife from afar isn't enough for some tourists. On Maria Island, just off the east coast of Tasmania, many visitors can't resist snapping pictures with the local wombats—and the problem has gotten so out of hand that island officials are asking people to pledge to leave the cute marsupials out of their selfies.

As CNN Travel reports, the Maria Island Pledge has been posted on signs welcoming visitors to the national park. It implores them to vow to the island to "respect and protect the furred and feathered residents." It even makes specific mention of the wombat selfie trend, with one passage reading:

"Wombats, when you trundle past me I pledge I will not chase you with my selfie stick, or get too close to your babies. I will not surround you, or try and pick you up. I will make sure I don’t leave rubbish or food from my morning tea. I pledge to let you stay wild."

The pledge isn't a binding contract guests have to sign. Rather, park officials hope that seeing these signs when they arrive will be enough to remind visitors that their presence has an impact on the resident wildlife and to be respectful of their surroundings.

The adorable, cube-pooping wombats at Maria Island are wild animals that aren't accustomed to posing for pictures, and should therefore be left alone—though in other parts of Australia, conservationists encourage tourists to take wildlife selfies. Rottnest Island off the country's west coast is home to 10,000 quokkas (another photogenic marsupial), and the quokka selfies taken there help raise awareness of their vulnerable status.

[h/t CNN Travel]

Divers Swim With What Could Be the Biggest Great White Shark Ever Filmed

iStock.com/RamonCarretero
iStock.com/RamonCarretero

New pictures and video taken by divers show what could possibly be the largest great white shark ever caught on camera, CNN Travel reports.

Deep Blue, a 50-plus-year-old great white first documented 20 years ago, was spotted off the coast of Hawaii recently in a rare close encounter. Divers were filming tiger sharks feeding on a sperm whale carcass south of Oahu when Deep Blue swam up and began scratching herself on their boat. They accompanied the shark in the water for the rest of the day, even getting close enough to touch her at times.


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"She swam away escorted by two rough-toothed dolphins who danced around her over to one of my [...] shark research vessels and proceeded to use it as a scratching post, passing up feeding for another need," Ocean Ramsey, one of the divers, wrote in an Instagram post.


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Deep Blue is roughly 20 feet long and weighs an estimated 2 tons—likely making her one of the largest great whites alive. (The record for biggest great white shark ever is often disputed, with some outlets listing an alleged 37-foot shark recorded in the 1930s as the record-holder.)

Deep Blue looks especially wide in these photos, leading some to suspect she's pregnant. Swimming so close to great whites is always dangerous, especially when they're feeding, but older, pregnant females tend to be more docile.

Though great white sharks are the largest predatory sharks in the ocean, sharks of Deep Blue's size are seldom seen, and they're filmed alive even less often, making this a remarkable occurrence.

[h/t CNN Travel]

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