Wednesday, February 13, 2008
Of Dinosaurs and Penis to a Kiss
A fascinating speculation on the evolution of emotion in humans and other animals.
“The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex,” includes a huge compilation of the sexual decorations and displays of animals, from the jaws of stag-beetles to the tail of the Argus pheasant, which far exceeds that of the peacock in absurd magnificence. From his study of all this, Darwin began to elucidate systematic patterns and principles of the evolution of courtship and sexual behavior. In particular, he developed the concept of sexual selection, which is the idea that cumbersome ornaments like big tails can evolve, even if they make the bearer less likely to survive, if the opposite sex (usually the female) finds them attractive.
In doing so, he founded one of the most important and successful branches of evolutionary research. We now have a robust understanding of how sexual pressures — the pressures to find, impress, and seduce a mate — influence the evolution of males and females.