Colorful Attraction

February 2014 Prof. Scarlet Leslie

Multiple studies have found that wearing red makes one look more attractive to the opposite sex. Red tends to signify health, status, and fertility. Our animal friends have also been using colors to their advantage in their courtships.

The seahorse is the real life hippocampus with an equine profile. Although they reside in the ocean, seahorses are poor swimmers. They typically use their tails to latch onto different objects in the ocean, such as coral or sea grass. Seahorses can change color to adapt to their environments. In unfamiliar surroundings, they can turn bright colors. The other time seahorses employ unusual colors is in social situations. Bright colors tend to attract potential mates.

The pink plumage of the flamingo is due to an oil that it applies to its feathers during mating season, which peaks in February. The oil contains carotenoids that flamingos absorb from crustaceans and red algae in their diet. While taking care of their new chicks, flamingos actually lose their pink color... until mating season comes around again.

One of the most impressive birds, color-wise, is the peacock. The peacock is the male peafowl. Its tail feathers fan out to a huge semicircle. The females, peahens, are attracted to the patterns and eye spots on the feathers. Some peacocks are known to strut their stuff while walking so the sunlight causes their feathers to shimmer. Usually, the healthiest peacocks are the most vibrant. However, peahens may also think certain peacocks are too flashy. After all, in the end, the choice is hers.

Finally, the most famous color manipulator in nature - the chameleon. The lizards can change color in as little as 20 seconds. The majority of the time, chameleons use camouflage to blend into their surroundings and hide from predators. They also use color to communicate with other chameleons. Bright markings mean the chameleon is proclaiming its dominance. A darker hue signifies aggression. Females even flash red spots to tell males to stay away.

Next time you head out, it can't hurt to throw on some shade of red... perhaps scarlet?