When studying the life sciences, there are a lot of in-depth concepts to take in. Depending on the the type of science you are studying, biology vs. evolution, for example, you may even have to learn a handful of mathematical formulas to fully appreciate the material. Here, we are just having a light-hearted overview of the life sciences, so a light serving of sativa will do just fine. In my experience, sativa helps me to not get lost in wordy texts (reading that is not broken up by graphics/tables or formulas) and keep my mind sharp and able to take in all relevant information. Grinding about 60mg (less than 1/4 of a 1g bud) of sativa and smoking just a small pinch of that for over a 3-5hr period is perfect for maintaining a healthy attention span for learning. Black Flower Science Co. does not claim to be a medical professional and does not offer recommendations as a substitute for medical advice. All advice and recommendations are based on personal experience of the benefits of medical marijuana. If you are experiencing severe or declining mental health symptoms, please seek the advice of a medical professional.
Female preference can be one of the strongest drivers of evolution. The males always strive to present their best selves come mating season, but it is always the potential lady love that has the last word on who’s hot and who’s not.
This process is referred to as “sexual selection.” The male (or female, in some cases) phenotype, or physical appearance, of a given species changes over time due to the pressures of what is called “cryptic female choice,” along with several reproductive isolating mechanisms, or “RIMs.”
Ultimately, the purpose is to avoid picking the wrong mate from the same, or even another, species, and producing offspring that are either inviable or have low survivorship. Males who are deemed worthy by the choosey females are allowed to achieve the ultimate success: siring offspring. But how do the ladies choose?
Choosing the Sexy Sons
A male’s physical health, aka “sexiness,” is displayed by his phenotype. Individuals that have really long, glorious tails, as in the case of birds of paradise, or full, dark manes, like the awe-inspiring African lions, showcase their exceptional energetic efficiency with these exaggerated features.
To the female, these features mean that the male’s caloric intake/use is so efficient that he is able to expend extra energy enhancing the length and strength of his extremities and the colors of his coat. Males with less exciting features appear sickly or weak, and so are not given as much attention, and are therefore less likely to reproduce. Their genes do not persist in the population, and, ultimately, the more desirable phenotype becomes dominant, then fixed, and so on.
Well, that sucks for the “ugly” males, right? Now what are they supposed to do? How is that in any way… fair? Well, I’d like to think that all animals, whether they are deemed “sexy” by their female counterparts or not, have their own purpose in their given ecosystems.
The tall dorsal fin of one orca was crafted by the same forces of evolution that Nemo’s stumpy ventral fin was. The only difference in its valuation is its likelihood of attracting a fertile female – does this make that individual less useful to the species? In a sense, yes. Less useful to its ecosystem and surrounding environment? Actually, no!
The thing is: Nemo’s stumpy fin is a disadvantage, and could very well get him killed. The orca’s tall fin could easily bring in all the ladies. This does not mean, however, that Nemo’s fin is a death sentence or a dead end in any sense.
How Non-Sexy Sons Contribute to the Ecosystem
Now, this does not necessarily mean that one male is more objectively valuable than another. After all, a non-reproducing male can still be observed for scientific behavioral insight, sampled for genome research, and more. Apart from humans, depending on the life history of the species, the male can still participate in standard ecological activities:
- Participating in inter- and intraguild competition [competition between animals of the same (intra-) or other (inter-) levels of the food chain] via the individual use of resources like water, food, habitat, etc.
- Checking populations of lower ecological groups (an “ugly” wolf can still hunt deer, thereby contributing to the balance of its ecosystem)
- Providing nutrition for micropredators and parasites (a bit morbid, but ticks, mosquitoes, and other micropredators can still feed from “ugly” animals, whether they reproduce or not)
He’ll just… never produce offspring, and that’s ok.
Non-sexy individuals in a species are often painted as if they are a dead-end or have no evolutionary or ecological use outside of surviving for themselves. In reality, they still exert ecological forces on other species and individuals within their taxa that drive evolution forward. An animal’s ecological and evolutionary value does not lie only in their ability to mate!
Additionally, though it may be harder for the shorter, paler, flimsier males to get a mate… in the end, it’s still possible. Without these individuals, genetic diversity in a given population would be severely decreased. Not only is it boring for everyone, or everything, to be the same, but it is also dangerous.
The Dangers of Low Genetic Diversity
If an entire population of elephant seals were sired from only a few – or worse, one – male, they’d all inherit the same sexy genes, yes, but they’d also all be equally susceptible to the same diseases. This means that if a really bad cold hit that family, it could potentially wipe out the entire population – there’s no genetic diversity to cushion the fall.
Humans maintain genetic diversity, too. Even though almost every woman I know wants a tall man with a broad chest and squared off shoulders with a chiseled jawline, there are plenty of married men who don’t match that phenotype.
Whether it be a human or wild animal, the absence of the most “desirable” characteristics may seem unfair at first glance, but I am convinced that the ecological and evolutionary purpose remains.
Besides, most females wind up choosing a mate eventually, even if her tall dark, handsome man is instead an average-sized, kind of tanned, pretty good-looking specimen. The danger lies not in choosing a less sexy mate, but the wrong type entirely, or none at all.
If an animal were to choose the wrong mate, or even worse, fail to find a mate at all, that threatens the fitness of that individual. Further, this could negatively impact its population at large (of course, the severity of this impact varies greatly based on a number of factors). If a population lacks significant genetic diversity, it becomes vulnerable, weaker.
The concept of sexy sons is an intriguing one. It displays the various drivers behind evolution, demonstrating how seemingly inconsequential preferences can mean the difference between the persistence of a species, or the struggle to maintain a position on the evolutionary tree.
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