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Thread: Some things about Sexual Selection

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    Some things about Sexual Selection

    Attraction

    Let's start by looking at mate selection. It is obvious that we are attracted some people more than others. Sociobiologists have the same explanation for this as for everything else, based on the archetypal question "why is sugar sweet?" We should be sexually attracted to others whose characteristics would maximize our genetic success, that is, would give us many healthy, long-lived, fertile children.

    We should find healthiness attractive and, conversely, illness unattractive. We should find "perfect" features attractive, and deformities unattractive. We should find vitality, strength, vigor attractive. We should find "averageness" attractive -- not too short, not too tall, not too fat, not too thin.... Quasimodo, for all his decency, had a hard time getting dates.

    We are also attracted to certain people for less "logical" reasons, such as the degree to which they have strong masculine or feminine physical -- and behavioral -- characteristics. Women prefer men who are taller, with broad shoulders, a square jaw.... Men prefer women who are shorter than themselves, softer, rounder....

    These differences between the sexes is known as sexual dimorphism, and the process that leads to these differences is called sexual selection. Small functional differences between the sexes can become large nonfunctional ones over many generations. If female birds are instinctively inclined to prefer colorful males -- perhaps because colorful males have served to distract predators from ancestral females and their chicks -- then a male that is more colorful will have a better chance, and the female with a more intense attraction to color a better chance, and their offspring will inherit their colors and intense attraction to colors and so on and so on... until you reach a point where the colors and the attraction are no longer a plus, but become a minus, such as in the birds of paradise. Some males cannot even fly under the weight of all their plumage.

    Human beings are only modestly dimorphic. But boy are we aware of the dimorphisms!

    The dimorphism is also found in our behaviors. David Barash puts it so: "Males tend to be selected for salesmanship; females for sales resistance." Females have a great deal invested in any act of copulation: the limited number of offspring she can carry, the dangers of pregnancy and childbirth, the increased nutritional requirements, the danger from predators...all serve to make the choice of a mate an important consideration. Males, on the other hand, can and do walk away from the consequences of copulation. Note, for example, the tendency of male frogs to try to mate with wading boots: As long as some sperm gets to where it should, the male is doing alright.

    So females tend to more fussy about who they have relations with. They are more sensitive to indications that a particular male will contribute to their genetic survival. One of the most obvious examples is the attention many female animals pay to the size and strength of males, and the development of specialized contests, such as those of antlered and horned animals, to demonstrate that strength.

    There are less obvious things as well. In some animals, males have to show, not just strength, but the ability to provide. This is especially true in any species which has the male providing for the female during her pregnancy and lactation -- like humans! Sociobiologists suggest that, while men find youth and physical form most attractive, women tend to look for indications of success, solvency, savoir-faire. It might not just be a cultural fluke that men bring flowers and candies, pay for dinner, and so forth.

    Further, they suggest, women may find themselves more interested in the "mature" man, as he is more likely to have proven himself, and less interested in the "immature" man, who presents a certain risk. And women should be more likely to put up with polygyny (i.e. other wives) than men with polyandry (other husbands): Sharing a clearly successful man is better in come cases than having a failure all to yourself. And, lo and behold, polygyny is even more common than monogamy, while polyandry is found in perhaps two cultures (one in Tibet and the other in Africa), and in both it involves brothers "sharing" a wife in order not to break-up tiny inherited properties..

    Taking it from the other direction, males will tolerate less infidelity than females: Females "know" their children are theirs; males never know for sure. Genetically, it matters less if males "sow wild oats" or have many mates or are unfaithful. And, sure enough, most cultures are harder on women than men when it comes to adultery. In most cultures, in fact, it is the woman who moves into the husband's family (virilocality) -- as if to keep track of her comings and goings.

    From our culture's romantic view of love and marriage, it is interesting to note that in most cultures a failure to consummate a marriage is grounds for divorce or annulment. In our own culture, infertility and impotence are frequent causes of divorce. It seems reproduction is more important than we like to admit.

    Of course, there is a limit to the extent to which we generalize from animals to humans (or from any species to any other), and this is especially true regarding sex. We are very sexy animals: Most animals restrict their sexual activity to narrowly defined periods of time, while we have sex all month and all year round. We can only guess how we got to be this way. Perhaps it has to do with the long-term helplessness of our infants. What better way to keep a family together than to make it so very reinforcing!
    http://www.ship.edu/~cgboeree/sociobiology.html

    Further reading about Sociobiology here:
    http://forums.skadi.net/showthread.p...579#post350579
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    Re: Some things about Sexual Selection

    The Racial Reality blog had a link to this article, comments included:

    Low Sex Ratios in Sub-Saharan Africa: An Adaptive Response to Generalized
    Polygyny?


    Peter Frost


    Sex ratios at birth are low throughout sub-Saharan Africa (Romaniuk
    1968:278-281, 334; van de Walle 1968:38-43). They are also low in African
    diaspora populations from the West Indies (Visaria 1967), Britain (James
    1984), Latin America (Feitosa & Krieger 1993), and the U.S. (Ciocco 1938;
    Erickson 1976; Strandskov 1945; Teitelbaum 1970; Teitelbaum 1972). Between
    Black and White Americans, the sex ratio difference remains significant even
    when birth order, socioeconomic status, paternal age, and paternal education
    are taken into account (Erickson 1976; Teitelbaum 1972).


    Recent attempts to explain this phenomenon have focused on polygyny. A
    study of seven different Kenyan ethnic groups has found significantly lower
    sex ratios in the children of polygynous parents than in those of monogamous
    parents (Whiting 1995). Whiting (1995) and Martin (1994) have suggested
    that women bear more daughters when they experience less frequent sexual
    intercourse, as appears to be the case in polygynous relationships.1 Low
    African sex ratios may thus reflect the "generalized" polygyny (>20% of all
    sexual unions) that prevails in 85% of sub-Saharan societies (Goody
    1973:177-178).


    Why would lower sex ratios be adaptive in a polygynous population? It may
    be that more daughters are born to offset the "wife shortage" created by
    polygyny. No such compensatory effect, however, has been found in non-human
    polygynous species. Although the subordinate females in such species usually
    bear more daughters, the dominant females bear more sons, so the overall sex
    ratio remains more or less equal (Clutton-Brock & Iason 1986). Apparently,
    the wasted reproductive potential of unmated males is allowed to go
    underutilized because it is confined mainly to subordinate individuals with
    limited reproductive value. The benefit of bearing a daughter does not
    outweigh that of bearing a son-who may become a dominant male with better
    chances of reproductive success.


    In sub-Saharan Africa, however, polygynous individuals differ from
    non-polygynous ones primarily in age and not reproductive quality:


    Inequality between old and young men was general in African lineage systems.
    While a young man might often work harder than his father or other elders,
    access to wives was determined not by current earnings but by access to
    prestige goods. The young man knew, however, that some day he would inherit
    his father's wealth, take more wives, and assume authority over his sons in
    turn.
    (Curtin et al. 1978:160-161).


    Young men had to put off marriage until they could save up enough to pay the
    bridewealth (van den Berghe 1979:66). Young warriors were often completely
    barred from marriage (Gluckman 1940:26; Whiting 1995:440). It was thus age,
    and not lifetime reproductive value, that distinguished single males from
    their married counterparts. In fact, because single males were younger and
    could expect to live longer, they may actually have been worth more to a
    prospective mate


    Because polygyny leads to fewer available women and celibate young males,
    natural selection would tend to compensate by lowering the sex ratio (i.e.,
    more daughters, fewer sons). The actual mechanism seems to be a maternal
    effect mediated by the frequency of sexual relations experienced by the
    mother.




    African Americans


    How do we account, then, for low sex ratios in the African diaspora, notably
    in the U.S.? Young African American males are not barred from sexual
    relations, at least not as they are in traditional African societies.
    Moreover, the evidence does not point to a maternal effect. A study of
    mixed-race couples found that when the mother was white and the father
    black, the sex ratio at birth was the same as for children born to two black
    parents (Khoury et al 1984). This would seem to indicate a paternal effect,
    possibly mediated by the proportion of Y-bearing sperm in the father's
    semen.


    Conceivably, the same selection pressures that produced one mechanism could
    have produced another. Hence, the sex ratio may have initially compensated
    for the effects of polygyny through a flexible mechanism; in this case, a
    maternal effect mediated by coital frequency. If the polygyny rate remained
    consistently high, natural selection would, over time, have also favored
    heritable traits that lower the sex ratio.


    Although it is notoriously difficult to raise or lower the sex ratio by
    selective breeding, small but significant heritable differences have been
    achieved in bulls, pigs, and albino rats (Clutton-Brock & Iason
    1986:345-346; Watson 1992). Sustained selection, in the order of 25
    generations, appears to be required (Watson 1992).




    Evidence for Antiquity of Generalized Polygyny


    For such selection to have taken place, generalized polygyny must have
    prevailed among sub-Saharan Africans for a long time. Several lines of
    evidence seem to bear this out.


    Genetics. Sub-Saharan Africans display much lower Y chromosome/X chromosome
    variability than do other populations, apparently because proportionately
    fewer men have contributed to the sub-Saharan gene pool (Torroni et al.
    1990; Spurdle et al. 1994; Scozzari et al. 1997).


    Linguistics. Reconstruction of proto-Bantu, spoken approximately 3,000
    years ago, has uncovered a specific term for "taking a second wife" (Polome
    1977).


    Physical anthropology. Over time, too many men competing for too few women
    should favor the evolution of physical robustness. Such male-male
    competition may be reflected in the increased sexual dimorphism of African
    Americans for weight, chest size, arm girth, and leg girth (Todd & Lindala
    1928; Wolff & Steggerda 1943). In contrast, a small, gracile, and almost
    childlike body form characterizes Khoisans and Pygmies, the only sub-Saharan

    populations to have a low incidence of polygyny.




    Origins of Generalized polygyny in Sub-Saharan Africa


    According to mtDNA and Y-chromosome dendrograms, Khoisans are the oldest
    living population in sub-Saharan Africa, followed by Pygmies (Holden 1999;
    Penny et al. 1995; Spurdle et al 1994; Watson et al. 1996). Only 6% of
    males in one Khoisan people, the !Kung, practice polygny (Howell
    1979:234-235). The sex ratio at birth, 105 males per 100 females, is
    comparable to that of non-African populations (Howell 1979:247). Thus,
    Africa's high polygyny rates and low sex ratios are probably not an
    ancestral condition.


    "True" Black Africans appear as a recent adaptive radiation in the above
    dendrograms, apparently branching off from an ancestral Pygmy population-a
    line of ancestry also indicated by osteological data (Coon 1962:651-656;
    Watson et al. 1996). This radiation seems to have occurred somewhere in
    West Africa. Before the Bantu expansion about 3,000 years ago, true Black
    Africans were absent from the continent's central, eastern, and southern
    regions (Cavalli-Sforza 1986:361-362; Oliver 1966). They were also absent
    from the middle Nile until about 4,000 years ago, at which time they begin
    to appear in paintings from Pharaonic Egypt and in skeletal remains from
    Nubia (Junker 1921).


    Murdock (1959:44, 64-68) attributes this expansion out of West Africa to
    development of the Sudanic food complex some 6,000-7,000 years ago, near the
    Niger's headwaters. There, a wide range of cultivated plants (sorghum,
    pearl millet, cow pea, etc.) were developed independently of the Southwest
    Asian food complex. Other authors, like Shaw (1980), postulate a larger
    area of origin in West Africa. Full development of this complex seems to
    have followed a long period of "proto-agriculture" during which
    hunter-gatherers protected fields of wild grains and created clearings for
    wild yams and oil palms (Davies 1968; Shaw 1980:111-114). Tending of wild
    edible species is suggested by unusually abundant Canarium (pili nut) leaf
    impressions from a southern Ghanaian site dated to 8000-9000 B.P. (Posnansky
    1984:149). Some form of agriculture is also apparent in reconstructed words
    of proto-Niger-Congo, probably spoken ca. 10,000 B.P. (Ehret 1984).



    At first glance, a West African origin seems inconsistent with genetic
    evidence for Black Africans and Pygmies sharing a common ancestor, since the
    latter now live only in central Africa. It is likely, however, that they
    once inhabited the entire rain forest zone, including the Guinea coast of
    West Africa, as indicated by finds of Sangoan artifacts-widely considered to
    be produced by ancestral Pygmies (Murdock 1959:48-49). Since Sangoan sites
    are confined to the rain forest zone and attest to a hunting and gathering
    lifestyle much like that of present-day Pygmies, the lineage from the Guinea
    coast Sangoans to present-day Black Africans must have involved a number of
    major physical and cultural changes.


    >From the outset, this ancestral Guinea coast population may have tended
    towards some reproductive isolation, and hence genetic differentiation,
    because of the Dahomey Gap-a mosaic of savanna and woodland separating the
    rain forest on the Guinea coast from that of central Africa. The thinning
    of Africa's rain forests during the dry conditions of the last ice age may
    have increased this partial isolation and, more importantly, made it easier
    to manage food production from wild yams and oil palms (Maley 1995:45-46;
    Posnansky 1984:150). Indicative of a shift in subsistence is the appearance
    of hoe-like implements at Guinea coast sites as early as 12,000 B.P. (Stahl
    1995:262). With the end of the ice age, the return of a less open forest
    environment by 9000 B.P. may have compelled these proto-agriculturalists to
    move out into mosaic environments to the north and east (Maley 1995:46;
    Posnansky 1984:150). Such a migration may correspond to the breakup of
    proto-Niger-Congo, estimated at 10,000 B.P. (Ehret 1984). The first to
    branch off was proto-Mande (Blench 1984:128-129); its descendent languages
    occupy an area centered on the Niger's headwaters-the same area that Murdock
    sees as the cradle of Sudanic food crops.


    The Sudanic food complex developed primarily out of female gathering and
    only secondarily out of male hunting.2 It thus greatly enhanced women's
    contribution to food provisioning, the corollary being a reduction in the
    costs of polygyny to men (van den Berghe 1979:65). As polygyny became more
    frequent, male-male competition would have increased for the shrinking pool
    of potential mates, the result being an intensification of sexual selection
    for larger, stronger, and more muscular males, as is the case in non-human
    polygynous species.3


    Such a scenario leaves surprisingly little time for the morphogenesis of
    true Black Africans. The beginnings of proto-agriculture cannot be pushed
    back much further than 12,000 B.P. A tall, clearly Negroid skeleton
    (Asselar Man) has been dated to 6500 B.P. (Camp 1974:241; Coon

    1962:649-650). This leaves a window of not much more than six thousand
    years for the changes that differentiate Black Africans from Pygmies, i.e.,
    a shift from a gracile, almost childlike body to a much more robust one,
    with attendant increases in stature, weight, and muscle mass.


    As development of the Sudanic food complex allowed these agriculturalists to
    expand out of the mosaic environments and into the savanna, the ratio of
    female to male participation in food provisioning should have declined. The
    savanna is more demanding on women's time, particularly for collection of
    water and firewood, so successful penetration of this environment would have
    required greater male involvement in agriculture (Goody 1973:185-186). In
    the savanna regions of Ghana, "women planted grain and helped with the
    harvest, but they were not concerned with yam cultivation, and did not carry
    out the many hoeing activities that were connected with cereal agriculture"-
    yet surprisingly polygyny rates were as high as in the mosaic and rain
    forest environments further south, a fact leading Goody (1973:185) to
    conclude: "While hoe agriculture, female farming and polygyny are clearly
    associated in a general way, there seems little evidence directly to connect
    variations in rates of polygyny with differences in the role of women in
    farming or in trade."


    High rates of polygyny in Africa may thus reflect not so much existing
    conditions as pre-existing ones whose adaptations have been maintained
    through culture lag, notably the retention of a large sex difference in the
    age of first marriage (Goody 1973:184-185). In addition, natural selection
    may have favored an increased predisposition to polygyny that persists even
    when the adaptive landscape has changed.
    Phil Rushton responding to Peter Frost's post on the low sex ratio (more
    females) in Africa.


    The value (once again) of not making theories for Africans separate from
    the East Asian-European-African gradient. East Asians have a sex ratio
    opposite (once again) to Europeans with more males, and not duie to the
    Chinese one child policy because it is true in Japan and of east Asians
    in the USA. So whatever the cause, it is not something specif to Africa
    vs the rest of the world but is fine grained going from East Asia to
    Europe to Africa.


    r-K selection again? But I'm not sure how. More sex hormones in Africa
    (they show the three way gradient). Just better food and economic
    circumstances? (In other animals leading to more male births).


    An interesting puzzle and lots of interesting data reviewed.
    reply....

    In Japan, 105.4 boys were born last year for every 100 girls. The ratio has
    not changed since 1899 and is only a bit above the world average. Much
    higher figures (118) have been reported from China, but this probably
    reflects unreported female infanticide as well as the sex ratio bias that
    results when couples stop at their first boy child.


    The highest sex ratios at birth come from Eastern Europe (Hungary, Ukraine,
    Poland), where values of 107-109 are the norm.

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    Re: Some things about Sexual Selection

    In Japan, 105.4 boys were born last year for every 100 girls. The ratio has
    not changed since 1899 and is only a bit above the world average. Much
    higher figures (118) have been reported from China, but this probably
    reflects unreported female infanticide as well as the sex ratio bias that
    results when couples stop at their first boy child.
    Thats the reason most demographics model present and I think its right. In poor, highly organised but patriarchal societies which limit in one or another way number of children it appears often that one sex, depending on the situation, will be not that welcomed, most of the time female ones, though the opposite can appear under specific conditions (mainly law of succession and available free land-herd etc.) too. Even to stop after one or two boys with reproduction has basically a similar effect - strong enough to change the proportions. In areas without such measures we can assume more children. Furthermore are females more prone to survive difficult situations, they have less often recessive diseases (double x) and are more resistent if its about certain other troubles in early age as well.
    So in societies like traditional Africa, with practically no strong sex distinction by birth, no birth control most of the time and oftentimes bad living conditions we can assume a higher proportion of females than in more developed areas with birth control, distinction and better medical and other supply.
    Just some thoughts.
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    Re: Some things about Sexual Selection

    I can give a simple example of how such preferences can come up. Most higher cultures which were good organised are patriarchal, patrilinear and patrilocal (PPP) so every investment in daughters will get lost to a high degree. Thats obvious, the family of the bride invests, but the family of the groom gets the results. The main advantages for the family of the bride would be so far a possible alliance, possible exchange with the daughters of the groom's family, social contacts, "new relatives" etc.
    But thats a poor compensation, so it would be just fair if the family of the groom would pay for the daughter - bride price.

    But now what happens in India now which is mostly what I said above? Its even more extreme since the male offspring is necessary to help the fathers and mothers soul - for the religions a male is necessary.
    And now the main problem: The dowry degenerated from original help for the bride to a "bride price" for the family of the daughter. Its even so high that it can ruin a family. So an original help for the daughter was downgraded to a nightmare for the daughters family, since the father has to pay for everything around the marriage and the bride price. This leads to a higher selection of females though, but only indirectly by the wealth of the father, a bad system.

    Pretty obvious that this doesnt work and most people, especially poorer and middle class which has something to lose, dont want daughters, since they dont just lose the investment, but can ruin themselves totally without getting anything back than honour and shame if they can't pay. In fact you can wonder how many families still do it in India and raise daughters because 3 could ruin a wealthy family. A degenerated dowry system...

    In a PPP society it would be the best solution if the groom's family has to pay a high bride price, that would make daughters, especially healthy and beautiful ones, much more valuable, even for the poorest families. But as it is in India, the opposite is true.

    Now we dont have such systems anyway and its good that way though the Liberal-Individualistic way is in many respects even worse since "children have no value at all" (material-economic-social-status) in this society - with the exception of personal preference and fun whats a poor motivator alone - especially if its about more than one children, necessary for our survival.
    Last edited by Agrippa; Wednesday, December 14th, 2005 at 04:02 PM.
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    Re: Some things about Sexual Selection

    The text you've quoted state obviously,how we can all see when watching other humans' mating habits.But I am wondering if those attributes such as a strong masculin appearance for males are still useful in a further developed society.Aren't characteristics like creativity in its widest meaning rather useful in our society and therefore should be considered as attractive?It's doubtless that the current selection is focused on,for instance, physical strength but that attribute is becoming more and more useless in our society.
    Well eventually I cannot really say what's really attractive since I for myself do not feel any sexual attraction (=asexual) and therefore can only mention what I've got from watching media or friends and assume that what I see there is considered as attractive for most heterosexual individuals.

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    Re: Some things about Sexual Selection

    But I am wondering if those attributes such as a strong masculin appearance for males are still useful in a further developed society.
    At least we need men with such features too.

    Aren't characteristics like creativity in its widest meaning rather useful in our society and therefore should be considered as attractive?
    Question would be if the combination of the first and the later is a contradiction of not since I think it isnt, at least if we dont equate masculin with "coarse".
    A versatile feature combination is always preferable and therefore the most desirable geno-phenotypes are those which combine physical efficiency, attractiveness, resistance, psychic efficiency, positive personality traits, resistance etc.

    It's doubtless that the current selection
    The Liberalcapitalistic society is contraselective which means the best elements both from the general biological perspective and from the perspective of our current socio-economic structures are selected out, those which are less desirable have higher reproduction rates.
    F.e. 40-50 percent of the female academics in Hamburg have less than 1 child with 40 years.
    Women which are more intelligent, better educated, more attractive, taller and healthier than the average get less children - similar things are true for males. Reasons can be found in our current socio-economic system which uses the best elements but doesnt further their reproduction, even on the contrary and in our education which produces egoistic-individualistic, hedomatic (hedonistic-materialistic) and career oriented personalities which live in a time in which children dont bring more but less social security, are a risk, there are no group norms, neither in the family nor in the nation and no social status connected with children.

    Well eventually I cannot really say what's really attractive since I for myself do not feel any sexual attraction (=asexual) and therefore can only mention what I've got from watching media or friends and assume that what I see there is considered as attractive for most heterosexual individuals.
    People can be attractive for various reasons, but progressive features are more specific, I made various threads about that topic.
    Furthermore there theories about connections between generally positive features, intelligence and attractiveness. The results are partly contradicting but mostly in favour of the connection. Again I wrote various threads about that.
    Constitutional variants are important as well and Leptosomics can be found more often in crucial areas (connection with progressive types and in a limited way attractiveness), there are again theories about the connections between physical body type and psychic, personality traits. I just mention Sheldon, Kretschmer, Conrad etc.
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    Grin Re: Some things about Sexual Selection

    Quote Originally Posted by Agrippa
    At least we need men with such features too.



    Question would be if the combination of the first and the later is a contradiction of not since I think it isnt, at least if we dont equate masculin with "coarse". ...People can be attractive for various reasons, but progressive features are more specific, I made various threads about that topic.
    Furthermore there theories about connections between generally positive features, intelligence and attractiveness. The results are partly contradicting but mostly in favour of the connection. Again I wrote various threads about that.
    Constitutional variants are important as well and Leptosomics can be found more often in crucial areas (connection with progressive types and in a limited way attractiveness), there are again theories about the connections between physical body type and psychic, personality traits. I just mention Sheldon, Kretschmer, Conrad etc.
    Power and esteem also play a role. Women look for stability and security in a man.

    More on sexual selection :
    http://www.evolutionary-economics.org/pamphlet.html
    http://www.evolutionary-economics.or...sFirstView.pdf
    "And God proclaims as a first principle to the rulers, and above all else, that there is nothing which they should so anxiously guard, or of which they are to be such good guardians, as of the purity of the race. They should observe what elements mingle in their offspring;..." Plato Politeia

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