Category Archives: sexual selection

Science again corrupted by ideology: Slate distorts evolutionary biology to make it seem capitalistic and anti-socialistic

UPDATE: I left this comment after the Slate piece, but it appears to have been removed. I’m not sure why, as there are far more vitriolic comments in the thread. Jerry Coyne The claim that the idea of cooperation is novel and paradigm-shifting in evolutionary biology is palpably ridiculous. All of the examples given by […]

True facts about the male ostrich’s mating dance

Several readers sent me this new video by Ze Frank, which is shorter than his other videos and also has unique music (Ze Frank wrote  the music, too).  I had no idea that ostriches mate this way, and it’s interesting to contemplate what the female is looking for here when she’s “choosing”. (I don’t think […]

No science in NYT’s list of year’s ten best books

Here’s the New York Times‘s list of the ten best books of 2019. You can find the 2018 list here and the 2017 list here. I couldn’t be arsed to go back farther. There’s not a pure science book in the lot, though there’s a sort-of-science book on the Chernobyl disaster, which is more dramatic […]

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 […]