Peacock feather dynamics explained, according to articles in ScienceDaily 27 April 2016, ABC News 28 Apr 2016 and PLoS ONE, published online 27 April 2016. The feathers of a peacock tail train consist of many loose barbs with a dark coloured “eyespot” near the end. When peacocks fan out their tail feathers they also vibrate them, producing an iridescent shimmering effect. This behaviour is called “train rattling” and usually precedes mating.

A group of scientists led by Roslyn Dakin from the University of British Columbia, Canada, have studied the physics of train rattling to see how this effect is produced. They found the peacock vibrates the feathers at an average of 25 beats per second, producing a pulsating low frequency sound that is in the best range for the female birds to hear.

The vibrations shake the loose barbs on the feathers, forming the iridescent shimmer, but the eyespots appear to stay still with their pattern undisturbed. The researchers also studied the eyespots barbs with a scanning electron microscope to see why they appeared to stay still. They found they are bound together by hooks in the same way as the barbs in flight feathers. This means the vibrations do not disrupt their pattern while the loose barbs around them are moving independently from one another.

Suzanne Kane, one of the research team, commented: “Charles Darwin observed that peacocks vibrate their feathers during courtship, but it took this multidisciplinary team of scientists to characterize the dynamics of this behaviour”.

ABC, ScienceDaily

Editorial Comment: Charles Darwin invented the concept of “sexual selection” to explain the elaborate feathers of male birds. He claimed that male birds developed bright colours and elaborately shaped feathers because the females were more attracted to them. However, like natural selection, sexual selection only explains why a characteristic works once it exists. It does not explain how it came to exist in the first place.

Peahens may respond to the sound produced by the train rattling, and to the sight of eyespots and shimmer, but that cannot, and never did, produce any genes that controlled the formation of such feathers, with all their colours and microscopic structures, nor will viewing by keen females ever connect up the appropriate nerve cells to produce the muscle contractions which produce the vibrations at the right frequency that turn on the females to mate.

So, let’s say it again: the fact that it took a multidisciplinary team of intelligent scientists, using high tech equipment to work out the structure and dynamics of peacock feathers is good evidence that feathers were designed and made by a more highly intelligent Creator, who just happened to make the whole bird, and not just pretty feathers. (Ref. ornithology, Pavo, feathers, colour)

Evidence News vol. 16 No. 10
8 June 2016
Creation Research Australia