Hot Duck: How Did Mandarin Ducks Evolve?

Continuing the discussion from A Concordist Rossian View:

How exactly did mandarin ducks evolve to be this way? When did they arise? Was it artificial selection? Sexual selection? Or what?


I’m wondering what the ‘selective pressures’ were on all the evolutionary precursors that produced such a wonderful creature. (Or is ‘creature’ not politically correct within biologists’ circles since its etymology involves ‘creation’? :slightly_smiling_face:)

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A post was split to a new topic: How did Rolly Pollies Evolve?

I don’t think the question has been studied for this species, but it’s most likely sexual selection. Wood ducks, their congeners, are almost as showy, and lots of species in the family Anatidae have fancy feathers and colors, as well as courting behaviors in which they prominently display their ornaments. To suppose that it’s all for your benefit is anthropocentrism at its worst, a pernicious feature of some brands of Christianity.

No. These are wild animals. Only two species of ducks have ever been domesticated.

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Interestingly (or perhaps not), the next closest relative of the mandarin, the Muscovy duck, is one of the two domesticated ducks, and there sexual selection has gone a different route. It’s the duck with the greatest sexual size dimorphism of all anatid species, with males weighing around twice the weight of females. The males also have fancy red, knobby facial skin.


I love wood ducks – we have them around here and swimming in the creek that borders our place. Apparently the moms share babysitting duties, because when I regularly rode the beautful bike trail that borders the canal in our town, I have observed the numbers in the broods.

I haven’t seen it up close, but it’s humorous to picture webbed feet wrapping around tree branches. :slightly_smiling_face:

What does that sentence mean?

Several things, but I presume what you’re having difficulty with the babysitting part?

It means, for instance (it’s been several years, so I don’t remember the exact numbers), that on repeated occasions I will have observed two broods of six with their moms swimming in the same area, but on another occasion in the same area I will have seen one mom with a dozen chicks and the second adult female not to be seen.

No, I have difficulty mostly with “I have observed the numbers in the broods” and how it connects to anything. But now you have explained what you meant. May I suggest you devote more effort to saying what you mean the first time?

Many duck species do what’s variously called “creching” or “brood amalgamation”. Since ducks don’t feed their ducklings, there’s no cost to the mother, and there may be some benefit from increasing the number of targets for a predator, thus diluting the risk to individual ducklings.

Since you already knew all that, I’m surprised at your inability to infer.

The problem is that I don’t know what you know.

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Yes, you do have a problem. :slightly_smiling_face: