Category Archives: sexual selection

Funky woodcock courtship

When one thinks of spectacular sexual displays, one thinks of the bowerbirds of Australia or New Guinea’s bird of paradise. But here’s one closer to home. This video, from The Center for Biological Diversity, shows the mating strut of the male American woodcock (Scolopax minor), a cute species that lives in Eastern North America. This […]

Nudibranchs have single-use spiny penises that remove a rival’s sperm from its mating partner

Several species of animals, including damselflies, are known to remove sperm—presumably from previously-mating males—before they ejaculate their own sperm into a female. (Damselfly males have a “penis scoop” for this purpose; see photo at bottom.) This removal is a prime example of male-male competition, which is a form of sexual selection that doesn’t involve female […]

Radiolab on sexual selection in birds

Here’s the latest Radiolab podcast, this time about sexual selection in birds and about Richard Prum’s revival of the idea of “runaway sexual selection,” which he calls the “beauty happens” theory. (It’s in his book, The Evolution of Beauty: How Darwin’s Forgotten Theory Shapes the Animal World—and Us.) I’ve written about Prum’s book before, and about my […]

More about sexual selection in the New York Times

With the publication of his book The Evolution of Beauty (subtitle: How Darwin’s Forgotten Theory of Mate Choice Shapes the Animal World—and Us), Yale ornithologist Richard Prum gained an extraordinary amount of publicity in the popular press.  His theme was that “beauty”—that is, the evolution of extreme and stunning displays and ornamentation in male birds—results from a […]

Bufflehead courtship

Buffleheads (Bucephala albeola) are cute diving sea ducks that have a pronounced sexual dimorphism, especially in the breeding season. Here are the males vs. females from the Cornell bird site. This will help you pick out the sexes in the video below.  The video shows a group of bufflehead males trying to impress a few […]

A critical review of Prum’s “The Evolution of Beauty” in Evolution

Richard Prum’s 2017 book on sexual selection, The Evolution of Beauty: How Darwin’s Forgotten Theory of Mate Choice Shapes the Animal World—and Us, has gotten a lot of popular press, and a fair number of positive reviews, but it hasn’t fared very well in the scientific community.  Prum’s thesis, which is that the “runaway” model […]

Saturday duck report: A mallard fight at Botany Pond; sadness ensues

The soap opera continues at Botany Pond, culminating yesterday in a terrible duck fight between James and an invading drake, and then the apparent displacement of James from Honey’s affections by the new interloper duck.  That incident also included the interloper getting trapped in a window well, and me having to rescue him. But let’s […]

A new review (and critique) of Richard Prum’s book on sexual selection

I’ve now read Richard O. Prum’s new book, The Evolution of Beauty: How Darwin’s Forgotten Theory of Mate Choice Shapes the Animal World—and Us (I’d highlighted the work earlier in my critique of his NY Times article about the book). Click on the screenshot to go to the book’s Amazon site. (Prum is a professor of ornithology, ecology, […]

Male pipefish who get pregnant reduce investment in their offspring if they see a sexy female

This new paper in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B caught my eye because of its title (abstract here but paper behind a paywall; judicious inquiry might yield you a pdf).  Check out the title and the abstract, and I’ll explain a bit of the results below (I read the paper quickly): First, a […]

Hybrid speciation in Amazonian manakins?

Rather than give a long introduction to hybrid speciation, I refer you to a recent post I did on diploid hybrid speciation in the Galápagos finches; just have a look at the introduction, which talks about the commonness of hybrid speciation in plants (via polyploidy) and its rarity in animals.  The Galápagos finches may be […]