Fractal plumage indicates bird fitness

January 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: Astrophysicists find fractal image of Sun's 'Storm Season' imprinted on Solar Wind

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

Related Stories

Searching for fractals may help cancer cell testing

July 6, 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 -- tend to have a rounder ...

Beautiful math of fractals

October 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, ranging ...

Formula unlocks secrets of cauliflower's geometry

October 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

December 3, 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 structures that maintain ...

Recommended for you

Herbicides can't stop invasive plants. Can bugs?

August 31, 2016

Over the past 35 years, state and federal agencies have spent millions of dollars and dumped untold quantities of herbicides into waterways trying to control the invasive water chestnut plant, but the intruder just keeps ...

Smarter brains are blood-thirsty brains

August 30, 2016

A University of Adelaide-led project has overturned the theory that the evolution of human intelligence was simply related to the size of the brain—but rather linked more closely to the supply of blood to the brain.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.