Lizards do push-ups for it. Gelada baboons show off their passion-flushed pectorals. Bowerbirds become interior decorators. From dancing spiders to drumming monkeys, the universal urge to mate has led creatures throughout the animal kingdom to evolve elaborate courtship rituals and astonishing anatomy. NATURE's two-part "What Females Want and Males Will Do" follows passionate wildlife experts around the world and through our own backyards as they use cutting-edge technology and risky field study to discover what makes winners and losers in the animal dating game.
Available in high definition, "What Females Want and Males Will Do" airs Sundays, April 6-13, at 7 p.m. on KUED-Channel 7. Academy Award-winning actor F. Murray Abraham narrates.
"Trying to make yourself attractive to the opposite sex is a universal trait -- smelling good, looking fit, even being deceitful -- are not just human characteristics," says Fred Kaufman, executive producer of NATURE. "This is a fun look at sex in the animal kingdom, one that uses modern science and technology to reveal new discoveries about sexual selection."
From Africa, South America and Australia to New Orleans, Montana and the California desert, "What Females Want and Males Will Do" reveals "animal magnetism" in the flesh. In the Ethiopian highlands, Chadden Hunter gets dangerously close to gelada baboons to study their mating habits, attempting to learn just what signals the varying shades of red on males' bare chests are sending to receptive females. On the Montana prairie, Gail Patricelli enlists a "fembot" sage grouse - a female robot she created - to elicit the males' ritual mating behavior, which includes acoustic and visual displays.
At a Connecticut waterfowl sanctuary, Patricia Brennan studies the duck's phallus, similar to a mammal's penis. The duck is one of the rare bird species to have a phallus, which Brennan believes has co-evolved with elaborate female genitalia in the ducks' struggle for reproductive success. Meanwhile, in her Cornell University lab, Kim Bostwick, who in NATURE's "Deep Jungle" revealed the manakin bird's moonwalk, discovers the first-ever case of a bird using mechanically produced sound - rubbing feathers like a spoon over a washboard - to attract a mate.
"What Females Want and Males Will Do" also travels to Australia, where scientists from the University of Queensland study the unmatched vocal repertoire and elaborate dance of the superb lyrebird, and where extreme photographer John Young tracks the magnificent riflebird, which boasts one of the most flamboyant mating displays of the continent's birds of paradise.
In the dense forests of Suriname, Sue Boinski observes capuchin monkeys - which she believes use percussion as other animals do bright colors, song or dance - to intimidate rivals and attract mates. And in the California desert, Barry Sinervo reveals how male side-blotched lizards' different colors - orange, yellow or blue - indicate their tendency toward aggression, deceit or cooperation in the contest to win a mate.
"What Females Want and Males Will Do" also considers the scents secreted by ring-tailed lemurs; female garter snakes, which can choose from thousands of prospective mates; the male black widow spider, which pays the ultimate price to pass on his genes, and more.
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