Mirroring the choreography of birds of paradise is the mating ritual of nature's rather baffling and little studied species, dorkus maximus. Until this Social Science event at the Perot museum, held last Friday night, we knew little about this fascinating group and even less about its sexual selection patterns.
There are several hypotheses for why the group has remained unstudied for so long. The leading explanation is that due to their complex, oversized brains, the dorkus maximus are frequently sequestered in laboratories notating apparatus titration rates, or huddled in late-model sedans, alone, grading stacks of junior college essays on Krebs cycle reaction flow. It is rare for these science-dedicated creatures to venture out and seek same-species affection.
But they have needs. They demand the right to procreate. And they've chosen Social Science, the new quarterly event that converts the new Perot Museum of Nature and Science into a nightclub, the protected space where they may browse, and possibly select, a new mate.
Perched silently above the fray, I sit poised, journal in hand, noting the patterns and plumage leading to that great, awkward dance.
The males of the species seek to lure in the fairer sex with appropriate visual landmarks. Tiny hoop earrings, a masculine fashion addition we'd once believed had gone extinct, is still considered sexual bait for this thrilling species. Those with the best odds of collecting a female add further festoonary: ponytails, soul patches, a pheromone-rich shellacking of Drakkar Noir and prescription glasses that require frequent cleaning.
The women, it seems, are quite aroused.
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Driven by primal instincts and $9 appletinis, it's the females who exhibit significant boldness within this customized environment. They establish their availability through a cunning blend of personal decoration and behavior.
During this evening of mating-specific acts, they exchange their natural plumage (stark, white lab coats and librarian cardigans) for much more seductive apparel. Complicated -- and often netted -- hosiery punctuates the legs of the females, many of the appendage adornments require fasteners, clips or other types of puzzles known to trigger a protein reaction located in the y-chromosome. Extremely tall shoes cause many other females to limp like wounded gazelles, dragging their feet as they struggle, an act meant to alert the males that this prey is easily caught.
While sipping fermented beverages, the females become bolder still. Their chirps grow louder, faster. They abandon their same-sex packs. And as this time relegated for sexual selection counts down, they move more quickly, nearly sprinting from geode to geode, ponytail to ponytail.
For many, these efforts and preparation result in success. The newly coupled pairs are bonded together like complimentary elements and are exhibiting behavioral patterns marking one another as taken. The rest will leave as lone radicals -- this time, anyway. They'll return in April, more practiced and polished, to search again.