What Do Women (Really) Want? Sexual Selection and Nature


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The male peacock has a magnificent display of feathers. Image by MAClarke21

The male peacock has a magnificent display of feathers – an indicator of being a good father and producing more resilient chicks! Image by MAClarke21

Whatever it is, there’s always a reason for every female’s choice. Some not always obvious.

Possibly with the best example of male exuberance, it would be easy to assume female peacocks prefer the colourful males simply for their feathery display. However, this idea would be misguided, as the most stylish males are also the best fathers, producing the most resilient chicks.

In another example, female guppies often show a preference for males with bright orange stripes and spots on their back. Again, female choice for the most handsome fellow reflects the male’s ability to find a particular orange fruit to get the desired ‘tanned’ look.

The examples could continue, but there is no question: Darwin was right about the power of female choice.

But, What if No Choice is the Best Choice?

Females spend a great deal of energy to choose the best male to father their offspring and transmit the best genetic make-up to the following generation. However, female strawberry poison frogs seem to have discovered a loop-hole in this argument.

What if this is not always the best approach? In this case, despite the male’s best efforts to impress with the sound of his voice, females invest no time and effort in their decision, and go with the first one they find. This may seem short-sightedness, but it’s female ingenuity at work once again!

It’s obviously much easier to let the males compete amongst themselves for territory and accept the closest neighbour as, in the end, winning males are all much the same.

Evolution: It’s Not All About The Ladies After All…

In an interesting reversal of fortunes, new theories are now emerging defending the idea that the ability to manipulate sexual evolution may not all be on the females’ side.

It turns out that males also have a say in the matter. “Rock sparrow females with a reduced breast patch are courted less intensely and chased less frequently than other females” said Dr Griggio, using an example from his own work.

The idea of indiscriminate mating with every female may be unfair. In reality, some males can be choosy too and are more specific in their courting than originally thought.

Courtship, Mating, and Selection

Every day, scientists around the world make new discoveries about how complex courtship and mating can be throughout the animal kingdom. It’s more than just ‘the birds and the bees’ … there is nothing passionate males won’t do to get the lady of their dreams – fight, dance, sing, build, starve or even agree to be eaten alive.

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