Sexual Selection and Dangerous Copulation

article image

Once upon a time, Charles Darwin found himself in a pickle called sexual selection. While contemplating natural selection, Darwin wondered why male peacocks, for instance, waste energy growing elaborate tails that don’t always influence productive mating habits. As it turns out, “There may be survival of the fittest, but there’s also survival of the sexiest.”

Susan Milius, for Science News, highlights a few recent explanations for this confusing process.  Some scientists pose the handicap principle, in which a tail “stays reliable as a badge of quality across generations only if good tails present a handicap that not all individuals can overcome.” Others say male beetles’ harmful genitalia, which “look more like instruments of war,” may be products of “an ongoing arms race between the sexes.” However, “one of the biggest developments in the theory of sexual selection has been the recognition that females in many species aren’t monogamous.” Yes, ladies can (and do) see past a pretty face.

Source: Science News.

Image by ToastyKen, licensed under Creative Commons.

In-depth coverage of eye-opening issues that affect your life.