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College of Liberal Arts
University of Mississippi

Event Calendar

Event Information:

  • Tue
    21
    Sep
    2021

    Oxford Science Cafe

    6:00 pmvia Zoom (connection details will follow)

    Dr. Lainy Day
    Department of Biology
    University of Mississippi

    The Sexiest Dancers are Made of the Right Stuff

    An amazing family of birds living in Central and South America, the manakins, are known for acrobatic courtship displays. Males of many manakin species attract females with elaborate dances. High-speed cameras have been used to identify the specific mechanism by which unique body-created sounds (sonations) are made and how hormones, bones, muscles, and brains support such intense dance routines. However, not all species’ displays appear to have as many dance steps or acrobatic elements. So, working with my team and with collaborators’ teams, I set out to record the dances of over a dozen diverse manakin species so we could then ask, what is the “right stuff” required to engineer specific types of athletic dancers. What type of brain and brawn is required for a pirouette compared to a moon-walk? And if displays are happening faster than the eye can see, how do we even know if we have missed something? We don’t. Allow me to reveal to you the hidden biomechanical diversity of manakin displays and throw in a bit of neuroendocrine physiology, muscular adaptations, and evolution that will eventually allow us to reverse engineer the ultimate dancer with the “right stuff."