Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Donna to the defense

 Yesterday I went out on a limb and suggested that the etiology of the reddish chest coloration of Pale Male's progeny might be environmental rather than genetic. I proposed food as a possible cause. Blakeman replied with a resounding and confident No Way.

Today I received a letter for the defense from Donna Browne. I have a feeling she knows that the odds are strongly against anything other than a genetic cause for the young hawks' erythrismal chest coloring,and that she was writing out of friendly hawkwatcher solidarity.
Still it was delightful to have her support. Her letter follows [in part]:

I never would have thought about the red chests
coming from food. But I don't dismiss it because even though the theory goes against RT "common knowledge" and RT's aren't known to have that sort of food/looks affinity, the fact that wild caught pigeons have been fed to hawks in another geographic area doesn't refute the possibility (okay,
probably slight possibility) that something could be happening here. Different ecosystem, different adaptive birds, different soil, different diet.

Not long ago they discovered that what was being taken for a genetic color morph in one of the big cats had to do with diet. They started tracking it because the females preferred one coloration far above the other. It turns out the color variation the girls liked was sported by the males that had the better diet. Whatever "better diet" meant in the article.

PS from Marie

Hmmm. I like the idea that a "better diet" [surely that means more food consumed] changed the lion or leopard or jaguar [or whatever the big cat was] coloration. John Blakeman has often commented about the abundance of food available for our Central Park redtails when compared with the hard-to-catch voles his Illinois redtails depend on. When he was talking about starving Illinois fledglings, ours had bulging crops in every photo. Maybe my food hypothesis was not as absurd as even I was beginning to believe.