Wednesday, June 18, 2008


An excerpt from The Moral Animal, Robert Wright
"In species after species, females are coy and males are not. Indeed, males are so dim in their sexual discernment they they may pursue things other than females. Among some kinds of frogs, mistaken homosexual courtship is so common that a 'release call' is used by males who find themselves in the clutches of another male to notify them that they are both wasting their time. Male snakes, for their part, have been known to spend a while with dead females before moving on to a live prospect. And male turkeys will avidly court a stuffed replica of a female turkey. In fact, a replica of a female turkey's head suspended fifteen inches from the ground will generally do the trick. The male circles the head, does its ritual displays, and then (confident, presumably, that its performance has been impressive) rises into the air and comes down in the proximity of the female's backside, which turns out not to exist. The more virile males will show such interest even when a wooden head is used, and a few can summon lust for a wooden head with no eyes or beak. ...

"For a species low in [the need] for male parental [involvement], the basic dynamic of courtship, as we've seen, is pretty simple: the male really wants sex; the female isn't so sure. She may want time to (unconsciously) assess the quality of his genes, whether by inspecting him or letting him battle with other males for her favor. She may also pause to weigh the chances that he carries the disease. And she may try to extract a precopulation gift, taking advantage of the high demand for her eggs. This 'nuptial offering'--which technically constitutes a tiny male parental investment, since it nourishes her and her eggs--is seen in a variety of species, ranging from primates to black-tipped hanging flies. (The female hanging fly insists on having a dead insect to eat during sex. If she finishes before the male is finished, she may head off in search of another meal, leaving him high and dry. If she isn't so quick, the male may repossess the leftovers for subsequent dates.)"

-Aditya Raghuwanshi

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