How come Andhra is left out of the mining loot story ? It is good for the nation if we learn to keep environmental and...
The UN environment report states that Ganga would disappear by 2030.There would be no need to train engineers or even Ganga...
A report published in the Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology suggests that babies of...
SELECTING a mate is perhaps a daunting
task, but is it really that complex? Lee
Dugatkin, a behavi6ural ecologist at the
University of Louisville, us, fixes up
Trinidadian guppies on dates in aquariums and probes the sociobiology of
these creatures. His study seeks to determine the criteria employed by female
guppies in choosing a romantic partner.
Offered a choice between a male
who is macho and dashingly bright and
one who is plain and homely, the obvious candidate, one presumes, would be
the former. But ironically, it is the latter
which has females vying for his attention. Dugatkin looks at the role played
by genes and environment in an animal's choice of partner. Earlier
researches had shown that in several
animals including guppies, females preferred a male already surrounded by
other females. From an evolutionary
perspective, it is safer for females to follow her peers. Even though she may not
get to mate with a superior partner, she
does not get away with a lowly prize,
when compared to her fellows.
But on experimenting, Dugatkin
figured that there were limits to which
such a rationale could hold because
females were indeed capable of differentiating between a worthwhile date and
one who did not deserve her attention.
Therefore, their decisions were based on
a delicate balance between two issues:
the security that comes from going
along with one's peers and the desire to
find a genetically fit mate.
Female guppies are most attracted
to brightly- coloured males (having
superior genes). To study how far this
tendency could sustain itself in a social
environment, Dugatkin arranged adjacent aquariums to present an illusion
which would make it appear as though
the drabber males seemed to have
female company while the brighter ones
did not. He kept careful track of the
effect of this illusion on the females -
to see if they preferred the company of
the lone but attractive male or the more
He repeated the experiments with
variously pigmented males in order to
assess the critical level of 'unattractivity'
which still secured attention. The results
revealed that males with pigmentation
that was 24 per cent lesser than normal
could overcome their commonplace
looks if accompanied by a female. But
those whose pigmentation was 40 per
cent less than normal, found it difficult
to attract a female. According to Judith
Stamps, an animal behaviourist at the
University of California at Davis, us,
who studied desert lizards, this tendency
of mimicking others does not hold true
for mature females. According to her, "Someone who is naive and has never
done it before is more likely to use the
choices of other individuals."
Dugatkin has not tried studying the
sociobiology of mate choice among
humans but there are other studies
which indicate that some of these
behavioural responses may ring true in
the case of human beings too.
Psychologist William Graziano of Texas
A&M University, us, found that women
rejected a good-looking male when they
were told that he had earlier been rejected by other females.
Other studies on human behaviour
suggest that aesthetic preferences are
partly inherited and partly based on
socio-cultural aspects. Michael
Cunningham of the University of
Louisville found that men from many
cultures prefered women with small
noses, full hair, widely-set eyes and big
smiles, traits considered to be indicators
of genetic fitness. Women, on the other
hand prefer men with thick eyebrows,
strong chins and an evidence of the ability to grow a beard.
But Dugatkin feels that among
humans, a species with complex cultures, social influences are more likely
to influence mate selection. While
humans can enhance their image using
artificial means, animals cannot.
Therefore, even though one might find
it difficult to distinguish biology from
sociology in human behaviour, research
does suggest that a bit of culture can
make up for the lack of good looks.
A study to this effect was conducted
by John Marshall Townsend of Syracuse
University in New York, us. The study,
which invo 'Ived more than 200 college
students was intended to ascertain the
attractiveness of certain cultural types to
members of the opposite sex. To introduce the social variable, some of the
models were dressed up in fast-food
uniforms while others were attired in
professional clothes and rolex watches.
It is also to be noted that all these
models had previously ranked as being
either homely or good-looking. The
results revealed that women preferred
the professionally- clad homely men to
the handsome ones dressed in fast-food
uniforms. Men on the other hand
seemed to base their preferences on the
woman's beauty rather than attire.
Townsend, however, did not rule out
the role played by factors like intelligence and compatibility in clinching a
long-term relationship even though
physical attributes were a major criteria
for mate selection. According Jo Robert
Gibson, a behavioural ecologisTwith the
University of California at Los Angeles,
there is a third factor which may determine an animal's choice of mate and
which is sometimes overlooked by
studies on the same. In addition to
genetic fitness and cultural popularity
- both of which help produce and protect offspring - the animal might have
more immediate concerns. For
example, as Gibson points out, if predators were prowling ar6und, it may be a
better bet to hang around with the
plain-looker rather than with the flashy
orange Adonis. The same might hold
true in the case of humans.