What we thought about...



5th September, 2005

Seeing God articles
Faith & Reason articles
Bible Teachings articles

Manakin mania

Like all God's creatures, birds are full of surprises. For instance, did you know that the eye of an ostrich is bigger than its brain? Ready for another surprise? Let's present it by posing a quiz question: which bird has the most rapid rate of wing beat? Well, since you know you are in for a surprise, you have probably guessed that it is not the hummingbird. Congratulations. Researchers in South America have discovered that the male red-capped manakin's wings can beat at 80 flutters per second, while the typical hummingbird wing “only” beats 50 times per second! “But rather than hovering for a drink, manakins generate finger-snap clicks to entice females” (Scientific American, May 2005, p. 16).

According to an August 2nd, 2005, New York Times article, the amazing story of how a number of Ecuadorian manakin species use their wings to produce musical sounds first came to the attention of Westerners in the 1800s, but was virtually forgotten until Richard Prum, a Yale ornithologist, was hiking through an Ecuadorian forest in 1987. He was stunned (his word) when he fortuitously stumbled upon the strange spectacle of a bird singing with its wings; the sound generated was a clear tone like that produced by a violin.

Other species produce sounds like a popping firecracker, while one makes a “whooshing sound” in flight. Recent studies with sophisticated cameras capable of snapping 1000 frames per second have shown a variety of ways whereby different male species generate sound to attract mates. The white-collared manakin smacks its wings together behind its back, while the red-

capped manakin rubs its wing feathers against its tail while hopping acrobatically from branch to branch. The club-winged manakin “uses a club-shaped feather as a pick to rake the ridges of another feather. It does this by raising its wings over its back, and shaking them back and forth more than 100 times a second so that one feather rubs the other like a spoon moving across a washboard” (New York Times).

The requirements of highly sophisticated wing clapping necessitate extreme body diversification in manakin bones, muscles and feathers. The wing muscles on some species are so large that one researcher, Dr Kimberly Bostwick, described the manakin as "little Popeyes, with big bulging muscles". Evolutionists can't tell us which came first — the behavior that requires special structural features, or the suite of complex structures that make such behaviour possible. Think about it.

Further investigation revealed the depth of intelligence involved in the design of the bird's feat. When the club-winged manakin raises its wings over its back, it shakes them back and forth 100 times per second; however, the tones it produces have a “frequency of around 1,400 cycles a second — about 14 times faster than it shakes its wings. ‘We had to have some kind of frequency multiplier,' Dr. Prum said”. The details of how that is performed are too complex to cover here. Suffice it to say that researchers were stunned to discover that the mechanism is very similar to that used by crickets. They are amazed that such a mechanism could evolve separately in two utterly unrelated creatures. Have we got news for them?


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