In this episode of Sciworks Radio, Shawn spoke with Dr. Courtney Fitzpatrick, former postdoctoral fellow at Duke University and a co-author of a paper in the journal Evolution investigating the purpose of female animal beauty. And it’s not as straightforward as you might expect.
Male animals are often more “attractive” than their female counterparts – think about the large mane on a lion, the beautiful feathers of a peacock, or the majestic antlers of an elk.
But what about the females?
The females of many species lack such vibrant features, so researchers are studying more subtle aspects of what qualifies as female beauty.
A goal for the males of many species is to pass his DNA onto as many offspring as possible, often through different mates. This might not be as common a goal for the females of those species, according to one mathematical model. Females might not be looking for a quantity of mates, but rather a superior quality. At the same time, however, they still need to attract the male that possesses such quality.
Standing out in the wild, instead of blending into the environment, can lead to increased predation. Though, there might be trade offs: having a mate to watch your back, a suitor that brings you food, or a partner that can build a protective shelter. Females are often less likely to be seen without a mate than males.
So why does this research matter?
Basic, seemingly non-urgent research like this is one of the building blocks for more advanced research and applied sciences – like medical cures and even space habitation. While this one area of exploration might not have a direct impact on humanity, it is important to understand the patterns we see in the living world so that, as we expand our knowledge, there is a solid foundation beneath it.
This Time Round, the theme music for SciWorks Radio, appears as a generous contribution by the band Storyman and courtesy of UFOmusic.com.
First aired Feb 17, 2017