Birds-of-Paradise Project Introduction


They go from expected to extraordinary
in a blink of an eye. You’re awestricken; they transform themselves
into something that you’ve never seen before. They swagger and serenade, they dance and display. They’re unlike any creatures on earth and one of the most astounding phenomena
ever witnessed: The Birds-of-Paradise. Found here in the nearly impenetrable mountains
And valleys of the island of New Guinea, in the greatest remaining tract of rain
forest in the entire Asia-Pacific region, they exist nowhere else on earth. The vast, vast majority of the land around here
has no road access, they’re just looking up into a wall of steep slope and you can tell that
this is just ridge after ridge and valley after valley. Evolutionary biologist Ed Scholes and
wildlife photographer Tim Laman have spent the better part of a decade
trekking into this isolated wilderness in pursuit of all thirty-nine species
of these miraculous birds. Well, the only way to see the king bird-of-paradise is to
climb up into the trees where they live, so I’m headed up to my platform. They’ve been photographing, analyzing, and recording their every move, every behavior, in an attempt to comprehend their
secrets, and in doing so revealing extreme examples of the
miracle of evolution. The birds-of-paradise represent one of these
singular events in evolution that stand out that are extraordinary. They’re something that’s without precedent,
something that evolved that’s so unique and so exceptional that you’re driven to say why or, you know,
how did that happen, how did that come to be? The birds-of-paradise are remarkable not
only for their exceptional beauty, and almost other worldly appearance, but as veritable living textbooks on
adaptation and sexual selection. The females are looking at this whole
package and can discern something about him by
minor variation. The more complex it is the harder it is
to make it look right. If one little feature is out of whack you’re going
to be able to tell. What about New Guinea has led to these
birds evolving here and nowhere else? What function do their outrageous
plumes and ornaments play, and what exactly are they doing? For me it still always goes back to the
original driving question, you know, and that’s how did it happen?
How did the birds-of-paradise come to be? Witness diverse strategies of
evolution at work and experience one of nature’s most
extraordinary hidden wonders up close. A world where beauty
and behavior are intertwined, a spectacle not possible any other place on earth.

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