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Full text of "Man In The Modern World"

Psychologically, one of the most interesting things about bird
courtship is the frequency with which in display the birds will carry
in their beaks a piece of the material of which their nest is built. This
holds good even for the Adelie penguins, charmingly described by
Dr. Levick. Here the nest is nothing but a rim of stones round a
depression; and accordingly the male presents stones to his mate as
part of his courtship. Interestingly enough, this action sometimes
becomes diverted to serve other instincts and emotions, such as won-
der—the birds will present stones to dogs and to men; and Dr. Levick
confesses to having felt quite embarrassed the first time he was the
recipient! Still another tale hangs by these stones. The sitting birds
are all the time stealing stones from each other's nests. Levick painted
a number of stones different colours, and placed them at one margin
of the nesting area. After this he could mark the rate of their pro-
gress (all by theft!) across the colony; and found that the red stones
travelled much quicker than the rest. This is of great theoretical
interest, for red is a colour which is to all intents and purposes absent
in the penguin's environment—and yet they prefer it above all others.
If a male penguin could grow a red patch he would probably be very
quick to gain a mate.
Such an example also shows in what sort of way the extraordinary
bowers of the bower-bird can have developed. These are a blend
between art gallery and museum, usually a tunnel of twigs with a
collection of shells, bones, berries, and flowers at one end, In one
species a space of ground is cleared, and large leaves laid upon it,
their silvery under-surfacc upwards. As they wither, they are
replaced; if they are blown over, the silver side is turned up once
Among the mammals, there is on the whole little courtship or display
by the males, but correspondingly more fighting. This probably
depends on the fact that the reproductive instincts of the female
mammal are more rigidly under a definite physiological control, less
under the fluid control of higher, emotional centres; the male deer
or elephant-seal has but to guard his harem, and they will automatic-
ally accept him in due time. There is, however, a great deal still to
be discovered of the courtships of monogamous mammals—a difficult
subject, because so many are nocturnal or burrowers, but one that
would well repay study. Among some intelligent quadrupeds, how-
ever, such as the elephant, a pleasant mutual courtship, of trunk-
caresses, has been described; and when we move up toward Homo
sapiens and reach the monkeys and apes, we find a number of display
and threat characters among the males. Some are to us repulsive,