A WUSTL undergraduate may have written that Wikipedia article you’re reading

If you go to the Wikipedia entry on “peafowl” and click on the “talk” tab, you can read a comment made Sep. 25, 2012, critiquing the section on peacock tails. (Peacocks’ iridescent many-eyed tails are something of a biological puzzle because they can be so heavy the birds can barely walk — so the question has always been what benefit they confer that outweighs the obvious disadvantage.)

The writer pointed out that the article espoused the view that females are indifferent to male plumage, but cited only one study done in Japan in support. Several other studies, the writer said, show that the number of eyespots in a male’s train predict his success with peahens.

When nobody answered, the writer dove in and overhauled the article, describing competing explanations for the peacock’s tail and the evidence for each. Wikipedia’s “view history” tab allows you to compare two versions of this section of the article.

The writer was Eamon Callison, a senior in biology in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis and a student in a fall behavioral ecology course taught by Joan Strassmann, PhD, professor of biology.

The course had some of the accoutrements of a traditional course, including a textbook, study questions and quizzes, but it was also an official Wikipedia course. Students had to edit an existing Wikipedia entry and then either add 25 references and 2500 words to a second entry or begin a new one. The goal was to bring at least one article up to what is called Good Article status by the end of the course.

Read more at The Source. 

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