The Frontal Cortex

The Vanity of Other Species

I’ve got a cockatiel with an inverted beak – it’s a pretty funny looking underbite, but doesn’t interfere with his eating – and I’ve often wondered if animals ever get self-conscious about their appearance. Does my cockatiel have any clue that he looks a little ridiculous? Does the chinese crested hairless dog realize that it’s a hairless dog? This probably strikes you as a silly question – vanity, after all, can seem like such a human preoccupation – but the logic of sexual selection would imply that creatures, especially males, are actually exquisitely aware of how they look. That’s why my cockatiel spends hours preening himself and gazing into his mirror.

That bit of theorizing was really an excuse to post this video, which holds out the tantalizing possibility that, at least for every other species, beauty really is on the inside:


  1. #1 Karen
    April 20, 2008

    Oh, wow! It’s definitely all about the attitude!

  2. #2 Tim Schafer
    April 24, 2008

    The Australian Bowerbird doesn’t feel very self conscious about its appearance per se, but each bird does spend a lot of time very specifically arranging its own colorful found-object display in order to attract mates. The birds with less colorful plumage have especially developed aesthetics.

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