Monday, September 13, 2010

Around the web: sexual selection

The "Around the Web" series highlights informative websites, and also targeted blog posts and news articles, relevant to the courses I teach. This semester I teach Anth 143: Biology of Human Behavior, an introductory-level course that covers the basics of evolution, behavioral biology, and the interaction of biology and culture. My hope is that these posts are useful not only for my current students, but other people hoping to gain background or insight into these topics.

There are a few good resources out there, and numerous news article and blog posts, on sexual selection.

First, of course, there is the PBS Evolution series, where you can view parts of the Why Sex? film and even play some games to teach you about evolution and sexual selection. Go here for the main page, and here for the Why Sex?-specific page.

Next are two wonderful lectures by Professor Stephen Stearns at Yale University. I was lucky enough to take one class with him when I was a graduate student myself. His two lectures are The Evolution of Sex and Sexual Selection.

Here is a blog post reviewing the most common hypotheses regarding the evolution of human breasts (hint: it may involve sexual selection!).

This is another one from Greg Laden's Falsehood series, entitled "Falsehood: A baby is not the biological offspring of its adoptive mother." This bleeds into content about parenting, but I think it's important for us to not see sexual selection and reproductive fitness in black and white terms.

And now a few good ones from Ed Yong, author of Not Exactly Rocket Science: Male water striders summon predators to blackmail females into having sex. This post looks at recent work on male water strider behavior to acquire matings with females. This will also be relevant when we talk about sexual coercion later. Female birds breed better in captivity if they see sexy males. Also a fun read! This post highlights work on attempts to increase the breeding success of captive Houbara bustard. This is an important example of the ways in which behavior can impact physiology, a causal relationship that we often assume to only go the other way (for instance, that testosterone causes aggression).


  1. Beautiful web background. I think I'd like your field site.

  2. Thanks, Anne! Mogielica is beautiful, I thought I should do a better job featuring it on my site :).