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Destination: Galapagos Islands Cyber Field Trip

Photo of David Anderson
Q&A with David Anderson

You can learn more about David Anderson in Meet the Team. He is also featured in Cool Careers in Science

Question Is there a hierarchy among booby colonies? Also, do you believe that blue-footed boobies have their brightly colored feet (which I assume is the result of sexual selection) since they have no natural predators? (Paige Sturm, college student and future behavioral ecologist)
Answer There isn't really a hierarchy among the colonies. One booby may be more dominant than his neighbor, and therefore get the better spot on the rock, but as for the overall colony, no there is no hierarchy among the birds. Also, yes there blue feet are a result of sexual selection. They flash their feet and show them off to attract the females.
Question Can the waved albatross or any other birds see in color? (Dan Shipley, High School Student)
Answer Yes they can. However, the only see in the primary colors, red, yellow, and blue.
Question Does the booby fly very much or does it mainly stay on the ground? If they can fly, why don't they leave the islands and migrate other places? (Keith Benz, High School Student)
Answer Yes, the booby flies a lot. They fly out to sea in order to catch fish. They are really good at flying. And actually they do leave the islands. They fly from island to island and also from the Galapagos to the mainland of Ecuador.
Question Our class saw in a video that one type of booby circles its nest before bring a stick to its mate for the nest. Why do they do this? (Joanna Little, Middle School Student)
Answer They parade around the nest and flash their feet in order to show themselves off as part of courtship.
Question How large is the boobies egg? (Pat, Mike, Evan, Ken, Nikki and Yasmin, Middle School Students, NJ)
Answer Their eggs are just a little larger than a large chicken egg. When the egg is first laid it appears bluish in color. Then after a few days it turns its normal chalky white color.
Question Why is the masked booby masked? (Daniel R. Nunez, Middle School Student)
Answer We still don't know. However, it is suspected that because the masked booby is so white, the shading around his eyes helps protect him from the bright sun.
Question Why do the boobies feed their young by throwing up their food? (ShiffonWalker, Middle School Student)
Answer That is the only way they can bring the food back to the nest. They travel all the way out to sea to catch fish, and have no other means to bring it back. So they must swallow it, then regurgitate for their young.


Scientific American Frontiers
Fall 1990 to Spring 2000
Sponsored by GTE Corporation,
now a part of Verizon Communications Inc.