Darwin’s belief that animals don’t pick their mates by pure chance is correct, says expert

June 16th, 2009 - 12:47 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, June 16 (ANI): About 150 years after Charles Darwin wrote defined ‘mate selection’ among animals as a deliberate process involving numerous factors, a Texas A&M University biologist has lent support to his beliefs that the choice of mates and sexual selection are beyond mere chance.

Adam Jones, who has studied Darwin’s work for years, says that the English naturalist’s work has withstood decades of analysis and scrutiny.

In his research paper, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Jones says that it’s no accident that certain peahens submit to gloriously-coloured male peacocks, lions get the females of their choice, and humans spend hours primping to catch the perfect spouses.

He adds that it is a condition that is ingrained into all creatures, and a conscious “choice” is made between the two so the romantic fireworks can begin.

Highlighting the fact that Darwin set the standard for original thinking about animal reproduction and was first scientist to propose plausible mechanisms of evolution, Jones says that he has moved a step further and confirmed that animals’ mating choices can drive evolutionary change.

“He noticed that birds, especially, seemed to be a bit picky about who they mated with. He discovered that birds - especially females - had preferences and that they did not just choose a mate randomly. He believed this is due to beauty of the plumage, that females usually selected the most colourful males,” Jones says.

“That was an important first step, and it’s given us models to work from to try to answer other big questions,” he adds.

The researcher points out that other key questions Darwin’s work uncovered, but has not yet answered, include the role of population characteristics and the environment and how they work together to produce strong sexual selection, and also what determines whether or not female choice will evolve in a particular species.

He further states that perhaps the biggest question of all is how does all of this pertain to humans.

“Darwin concluded that sexual selection existed in the animal world and that humans definitely followed a similar process,” Jones says.

“But he realized he had to explain it first as it related to animals. Darwin thought that sexual selection was an important process in humans, both for males and females. But how much has sexual selection acted on males versus females in humans? Today, while we are celebrating the 200th year of the birth of Charles Darwin, we know sexual selection occurs and is very important but there are still many unanswered questions about precisely why and how it works, especially in humans,” the researcher adds. (ANI)

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