Category Archives: sexual selection

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 […]

A bright blue tarantula

Have a look at this lovely blue tarantula from Brazil. The species is Pterinopelma sasimai, named after Dr. Ivan Sazima, a Brazilian zoologist who discovered the species in 1971 but didn’t formally name it. He had a blue female which died during molting. Here are two videos: The species wasn’t in fact formally named until 2011, […]

New peacock spiders

Peacock spiders are not only beautiful, but great examples of sexual selection, for the males show both amazing colors and fascinating display behaviors that they use in their attempts to attract females. “Attempt”, of course, doesn’t mean they’re behaving with conscious intent, but just showing the results of sexual selection. The only reason peacock spiders […]

The bizarre mating dance of the hooded grebe

Reader Charleen sent me the tweet below, which shows the courtship ritual of the hooded grebe (Podiceps gallardoi), a rare and critically endangered species (fewer than 1000 individuals) that lives in isolated Patagonian lakes. Have a look at this craziness, and ask yourself “Why the hell are they doing this?” or “What selective advantage is […]