September 2021

The Sexiest Dancers are Made of the Right Stuff

Dr. Lainy Day, Associate Professor in the Department of Biology and Neuroscience Minor Director at the University of Mississippi

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".

Tuesday, September 21, 2021, 6:00pm - 7:00pm
Via Zoom

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Some of the material in this website is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. PHY-1067985. Any opinions, findings and conclusions or recomendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation (NSF).