Friday, February 27, 2015

The social essence of sexual selection

Posted by Beatriz Willink

For next Tuesday we will read a paper on the evolutionary neurobiology of male–female interactions, which argues for looking at sexual selection in a social context. I hope it inspires an interesting discussion.

When: 10:30 March 3, 2015

Where: Argumentet, Ekologihuset 2nd floor

Abstract: Darwinian sexual selection can now be seen in the broader context of social selection, or social competitionfor resources (under sexual selection, mates or fertilization success). The social-interaction aspects of sexually selected traits give them special evolutionary properties of interest for neurobiological studies of stimulus–response systems because they can account for highly complex systems with little information content other than stimulatory effectiveness per se. But these special properties have a long history ofbeing forgotten when other factors dominate the analysis of male–female interactions, such as the mistakenbelief that differential responsiveness to signals produced by competing rivals (“female choice”)requires an esthetic sense; that species recognition explains all species-specific sexual signals; and, morerecently, that successful signals must reflect good survival genes; or that male–female conflict involvesfemale resistance rather than stimulus evaluation. A “conflict paradox” results when male–female conflict is seen as driven by natural selection, whose costs should often move the hypothesized “sexually antagonistic co-evolution” of sensory-response systems toward the powerful domain of sexually synergistic co-evolution under sexual selection. Special properties of sexual selection apply to other forms ofsocial competition as well, showing the wisdom of Darwin’s setting it apart from natural selection as anexplanation of many otherwise puzzling and extreme traits.

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