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Bright colors can be a way
For insecure boys to say
Choose me not my competitors;
Or flowers to call to pollinators.

Bold and bright colors are usually interpreted as being a forceful statement.  This page points to colors and patterns that are thought to  favour attraction.   This usually involves organisms that move, so that an individual can be attracted to and move to another individual. 

As an example, colorful flowers draw the attention of possible pollinators to where the nectar (another invitation) and pollen is.  Some pollen may be dislodged and carried away, and dropped onto the female parts of another flower where fertlization can take place.  Once pollinated (fertilized), seeds start to develop, and a new generation is made possible.  This flower is a rose (Rosa), of which an immense number of colorful varieties have been developed by us and mostly for our viewing pleasure. As with some other flowers, roses may produce a fragrance that is a further invitation to visit.

Bright, strong, a little shock;
It’s the mister peacock
(Not the lady peahen)
Who uses colors to overwhelm. 

The peacock (Mr Peafowl) is one of the best examples of going to excesses in trying to look cool. There are several types of peafowl – this is the Indian peafowl (Pavo cristatus).   Having such a massive tail can get in the way, so when not in use to attract the interest of females, it is folded and dropped down.  Videos show that display is not simply putting up this fan of feathers, there is also a call (Look at me!!), and a shaking dance so that the poor peahen cannot look away. 

 There seem to have been cases  where the desire to attract the attention of females has led to evolutionary disaster.  One is the ‘Irish elk’, the antlers of which were the largest of any deer.  They were painted by Palaeolithic man – so people and the Irish elk co-existed for a while. But, about 8,000 years ago they went extinct.  The large antlers probably contributed to their downfall, making them a bit more vulnerable as human populations grew and needed more food. So, as with dodos, passenger pigeons, and the like, the success of our species changed the world sufficiently that some could not survive.

Damselfly boy has cool blue suit
So damselfly miss will think him cute.

This is a pair of common (although that would depend on where you live) blue damselflies (Enallagma cyathigerum). The male is the brightly colored one, the female is the duller one.  Most damselflies (there are a few in this book) have this ‘sexual dimorphism’ – the term for when males and females look different.  In most cases, not all, the male is more flamboyant.   

Consider pointing out that we, as people, try to show off – an assertion that we are better than others of the same gender.  Boys and men may own larger, noisier, more ‘in your face’ vehicles; or work out to improve their physical appearance, or are bullies.   And it is not just the boys.  Ask, what is it that attracts girls to the more assertive men. Or, more easily, how do (some) girls enhance  their own flamboyance to attract the attention of boys.  The tendency to claim superiority is not just something that individuals do;  groups of people, and countries do it too.  It seeks or leads to ‘us and them’ thinking. That attitude is one of the most dangerous because it is used by one side to justify hurting the other.  Here is a chance to discuss how we should interact and respect others.   Include discussion of topics like ‘Which is better ……  the male or the female damselfly?’ Hopefully the answer will be a question  – what does ‘better’ mean?  

 

Strawberry says “Eat me!’ with red,
So that its seeds will be spread.

The strawberry (Fragaria ananassa) uses two colors differently. One strong color (white) is likely to attract pollinators to the flower; a second bright color (red) draws attention to the fruit. It does this so that we will eat the berry with all of those seeds on the outside. Those seeds will pass through our digestive system and may end up taking root and growing into a new plant.  That’s a win from the perspective of the strawberry. 

If you have examples of how we show off and attract attention, or have other ideas, please let us know below.

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