Early spring is when it’s time for the male Greater Sage Grouse to dust off his tail feathers and start practicing his dance moves. His dance floor is known as a “lek”, a Swedish word for “playground” and his ancestors have been coming here for over one hundred years. It’s an open area where he can strut, beat his wings and fan his spotted tail feathers into a majestic display of dominance.
At early dawn he’s joined on the promenade by other hopeful performers as they all begin to bulge, pop and pulsate their greenish yellow air sacs. They’re fighting for the center of the dance floor where they can best show off their talents. They don’t just dance, they also sing, making a burping “wup” sound when they inhale and exhale from their vocal sac. The sac can hold up to a gallon of air and be heard up to two miles away.
They practice for weeks until finally the discriminating females arrive to watch for the most fiercest and suitable contestant in this show of shows. She chooses her partner by squatting low, spreading and drooping her wings as if to say, “Shall we dance?” This all takes a matter of seconds. A single male may have a dance card with twenty females in one morning.
The Sage Grouse’s dance party is an ancient mating ceremony that is a highly structured social interaction. It ensures the strongest characteristics survive and exemplifies cooperation within their species. As humans, we can choreograph our own social rhythms towards a thriving and regenerative society using nature’s genius. What do we call this new dance craze? Biomimicry.
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