Page:Darwinism by Alfred Wallace 1889.djvu/308

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286
CHAP.
DARWINISM

the females prefer certain males on account of the beauty of their plumage." Mr. Hewitt was convinced "that the female almost invariably prefers the most vigorous, defiant, and mettlesome male;" and Mr. Tegetmeier, "that a gamecock, though disfigured by being dubbed, and with his hackles trimmed, would be accepted as readily as a male retaining all his natural ornaments."[1] Evidence is adduced that a female pigeon will sometimes take an antipathy to a particular male without any assignable cause; or, in other cases, will take a strong fancy to some one bird, and will desert her own mate for him; but it is not stated that superiority or inferiority of plumage has anything to do with these fancies. Two instances are indeed given, of male birds being rejected, which had lost their ornamental plumage; but in both cases (a widow-finch and a silver pheasant) the long tail-plumes are the indication of sexual maturity. Such cases do not support the idea that males with the tail-feathers a trifle longer, or the colours a trifle brighter, are generally preferred, and that those which are only a little inferior are as generally rejected,—and this is what is absolutely needed to establish the theory of the development of these plumes by means of the choice of the female.

It will be seen, that female birds have unaccountable likes and dislikes in the matter of their partners, just as we have ourselves, and this may afford us an illustration. A young man, when courting, brushes or curls his hair, and has his moustache, beard, or whiskers in perfect order, and no doubt his sweetheart admires them; but this does not prove that she marries him on account of these ornaments, still less that hair, beard, whiskers, and moustache were developed by the continued preferences of the female sex. So, a girl likes to see her lover well and fashionably dressed, and he always dresses as well as he can when he visits her; but we cannot conclude from this that the whole series of male costumes, from the brilliantly coloured, puffed, and slashed doublet and hose of the Elizabethan period, through the gorgeous coats, long waistcoats, and pigtails of the early Georgian era, down to the funereal dress-suit of the present day, are the direct result of female preference. In like manner, female birds may be

  1. Descent of Man, pp. 417, 418, 420.