As men begin to go grey, some try dying their hair to attract the ladies. For older male blue-footed boobies, re-dying the feature that drives females wild—their feet, whose bright blue color fades with age—isn’t an option. But there is a way for those fellas to regain a bit of their youthful glow: abstinence. Researchers report in Biology Letters that after a chaste period, boobies’ feet become more luminous, thus making them more attractive to females the following mating season.
“As male boobies age and accumulate reproductive events, their foot colour during courtship deteriorates,” write the authors, led by Alberto Velando. “Blue-footed boobies that skipped the previous breeding event were able to produce a better sexual signal, suggesting that skipping may be an adaptive male strategy, particularly for older males with dull feet. The age-related costs and benefits of skipping need exploring to determine whether skipping is an adaptive breeding strategy in the blue-footed booby.”
“Interestingly,” they conclude, “the recovery of attractiveness after skipping a breeding event suggests that some animals could mitigate the negative effects of senescence by resting.”
It’s lucky for plastic surgeons that it doesn’t work that way for humans.