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Why Blue-footed Boobies Must Have Great Blue Hue

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Blue-footed boobies are most famously known for being one of the animals studied by Charles Darwin during his travels to the Galapagos Island; they are also known for having blue feet, of course. Known by their scientific name Sula nebouxii, their blue feet come from the carotenoid pigments from their fresh fish diet.

Mate selection among species has been an interest of biologists and teenagers since the beginning of time. Which traits are desirable for a species and why are these traits desirable? Many of the theories behind these processes stem from the basis of mate selection - procreation. Procreation is a continuation of your genetic information is considered propagation of oneself and species. As a result, a large majority of selection is based on traits that will increase the likelihood of this continuation. Among humans, these might include weight, height, intelligence, and even smell as indicators of fertility and health.

Why are the Blue Footed Booby's feet so blue?

A study by a Spanish-Mexican research endeavored to study this unique trait to evaluate any impact on mate selection. They knew that the bluest boobies were selected as mates, but the brightness of fur coats and plummage have long known to be a factor in mate selection. The authors published their findings in the Journal of Evolutionary Biology and make several astute observations that shed light into the reproductive habits of the blue-footed booby.

Both male and female blue-footed boobies select their mates based on the degree of blue hue. The bluest feet are thought to be an indicator of different genetic and phenotypic characteristics in both male and female boobies. Many studies have examined these links and many studies in support of a theory called differential allocation, which theorizes a positive correlation between mate attractiveness and quality care of offspring. Females with the bluest feet are more fertile and produce eggs that have a better chance of survival. Male boobies with dulling feet are shown to decrease the size of a female's subsequent eggs because the hue indicates the level of attention the males will designate to the offspring. Males with dulling feet are also aging and age plays a factor in the quality of sperm that males produce. Males and females with the bluest feet are healthiest.

Even though human mate selection is very similar, the study observations help to further our understand of mating behavior among other species. . The author of the study, Alberto Velando of the University of Vigo in Spain, says "...this provides us with a new way of looking at what lies behind sexual signals.


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