Fractal plumage indicates bird fitness

Jan 24, 2013
Fractal plumage indicates bird fitness
Red legged Partridge and fractal pattern. Credit: Hans Hut and Wolfgang Beyer

The complexity of the fractal geometry of a bird's plumage reveals its level of fitness, according to a new study published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B today.

Coloured traits play key roles in animal communication. Often, these traits consist in complex (spotted, stripped or irregular colourations) that are difficult to describe with standard tools. Lorenzo Pérez-Rodríguez and his team tried using fractal geometry, which was developed to describe fractals, mathematical objects characterized by their complexity and self-similarity when observed at different scales, in order to analyse bird plumage.

The Spanish scientists studied the black bib patterns of 68 red-legged partridge (Alectoris rufa) and found that a higher bib fractal dimension predicted better individual body condition, as well as immune responsiveness. Moreover, when food intake was experimentally reduced as a means to reduce body condition, the bib's fractal dimension significantly decreased, which could be perceived by potential mates and rivals. Fractal geometry, therefore, provides new opportunities for the study of complex animal colour patterns and their roles in animal communication.

Explore further: 'Killer sperm' prevents mating between worm species

More information: Perez-Rodriguez, L., Jovani, R. and Mougeot, F. Fractal geometry of a complex plumage trait reveals bird's quality, Proceedings of the Royal Society B. dx.doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2012.2783

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Beautiful math of fractals

Oct 13, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- What do mountains, broccoli and the stock market have in common? The answer to that question may best be explained by fractals, the branch of geometry that explains irregular shapes and processes, ...

Formula unlocks secrets of cauliflower's geometry

Oct 23, 2012

The laws that govern how intricate surface patterns, such as those found in the cauliflower, develop over time have been described, for the first time, by a group of European researchers.

Team uses fractal geometry to build lighter structures

Dec 03, 2012

(Phys.org)—A team made up of members from several European countries has published a paper in Physical Review Letters describing a technique they've developed for using fractal geometry to build struct ...

Searching for fractals may help cancer cell testing

Jul 06, 2011

Scientists have long known that healthy cells looked and behaved differently from cancer cells. For instance, the nuclei of healthy cells -- the inner part of the cells where the chromosomes are stored -- ...

Recommended for you

Chinese mosquitos on the Baltic Sea

3 hours ago

The analysis of the roughly 3,000 pieces is still in its infant stage. But it is already evident that the results will be of major significance. "Amazingly often, we are finding–in addition to Asian forms–the ...

Baby zebra is latest success in research partnership

4 hours ago

The recent birth of a female Grevy's zebra foal at the Saint Louis Zoo marks another milestone in a long-running Washington University in St. Louis research partnership that is making significant contributions ...

'Killer sperm' prevents mating between worm species

23 hours ago

The classic definition of a biological species is the ability to breed within its group, and the inability to breed outside it. For instance, breeding a horse and a donkey may result in a live mule offspring, ...

User comments : 0