Saturday, September 30, 2023

Bird Courtship Rituals Topic for Virtual Science Cafe

By Edwin B. Smith

University of Mississippi Communications

UM biologist Lainy Day will discuss courtship rituals of Central and South American birds during the next Science Cafe, slated for 6 p.m. Tuesday (Sept. 21) via Zoom. Submitted photo

The acrobatic courtship rituals among Central and South American birds is the topic for a virtual Oxford Science Cafe scheduled Sept. 21 by a University of Mississippi biologist.

The program will be hosted on Zoom beginning at 6 p.m. Lainy Day, associate professor of biology and director of the neuroscience minor at Ole Miss, will discuss “The Sexiest Dancers are Made of the Right Stuff.”

“An amazing family of birds living in Central and South America, the manakins, are known for acrobatic courtship displays,” Day said. “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. Working with her own team and with collaborators’ teams, Day set out to record the dances of more than a dozen diverse manakin species to determine what is the “right stuff” required to engineer specific types of athletic dancers.

Questions Day will address during her 45-minute webcast include: What type of brain and brawn is required for a pirouette compared to a moonwalk? If displays are happening faster than the eye can see, how do we even know if we have missed something?

“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,'” she said.

To view the program, visit

For more information about the Department of Physics and Astronomy, which organizes the Oxford Science Cafe programs, visit