Mary’s Monday Metazoan: What? Females aren’t beautiful for me?


That female crab doesn’t make herself gorgeous for the males of her species, it seems — sometimes a lady just has to look good.

Contrary to expectation, the model shows that winning the romantic interest of picky males is not enough to explain how desirable feminine features become widespread — even when better-looking females are more likely to land a good catch.

The results of their mathematical approach support other research suggesting that female beauty doesn’t evolve just to win mates.

Instead, traits such as the dance fly’s frilly legs or the blue crab’s red-tipped claws may help their bearers compete for other resources, such as social status or protection from predators. The results are consistent with an idea called the “social selection” hypothesis, first proposed three decades ago by theoretical biologist Mary Jane West-Eberhard of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute.

Impossible. They might consider other resources than access to my magnificent manliness to be valuable? Heresy.


  1. Dark Jaguar says

    I’m so glad the sex centric view of all “cosmetic” adaptations is starting to wane. Yes, gene survival is the thing, but sex is just a means to that gene survival, like anything else.

    I’m all for considering society as part of the selective environment acting on genes. I mean, I’m pretty antisocial a lot of the time, but I respect it from a distance.

  2. monad says

    Interesting, though it seems to take it for granted that “attractive males get more girls and sire more offspring because of their good looks”, and I’ve seen things argue that shouldn’t be presumed either. For instance I remember something about a darter suggesting its bright colors were mainly communication with other males, while females weren’t particularly interested.