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Thread: Dumb daughter hypothesis

  1. #1 Dumb daughter hypothesis 
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    Dumb daughter hypothesis may dovetail with or replace sexy son hypothesis, which states evolution of male ornament is driven by female preference for mates who provide more attractive sons.

    My alternate explanation postulates that the most successful breeding arrangement has the female as oblivious, single-minded eating machine. Any other investments in time, energy, behaviour, physiology, or attention are frivolous wastes of mother resources and best borne by the male. Therefore the female's recognition of suitable mate is orchestrated by the male, while she takes a passive even reluctant role. She has more important things to think about than male beauty. She'd best ignore a male altogether unless he really gets "in her face". For the male's part, he has nothing better to do.


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    Forum Cosmic Wizard paralith's Avatar
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    Pong, how would you account for the difference between birds like the peacock and birds like penguins who look exactly the same? In species like these all a male really has to do is act like a male and the difference seems obvious enough to the female. Why the extra step of physical extravagance with the peacocks?


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  4. #3  
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    I'd compare their lifestyles. Female penguins spend long hours with nothing to do but contemplate males, whereas the peahen can and should spend every waking second go go go.

    That was so easy I think you're setting me up.

    BTW "dumb" in the sense of "oblivious".
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    For such an "easy" question you gave a pretty poor answer. It's very easy to make assumptions about the species involved that conveniently support your hypothesis. Do peahens spend that much more time foraging than female penguins? I would in fact argue the opposite. Penguins live in stringent environments wherein they must spend large amounts of time hunting fish in the ocean. Meanwhile, peahens live in forests where food is all around them, they merely have to walk to where it is.

    I could be wrong of course, this is based on my general knowledge of these birds which is far from complete. You could probably do a lit search for studies on the activity budgets of these birds and that would give you a more complete answer. But until I have such an answer I see no reason to accept your answer as sufficient.
    Man can will nothing unless he has first understood that he must count on no one but himself; that he is alone, abandoned on earth in the midst of his infinite responsibilities, without help, with no other aim than the one he sets himself, with no other destiny than the one he forges for himself on this earth.
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  6. #5  
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    It's impossible to ignore the males in this situation, and costs the female nothing to gawk.

    Walrus, same deal.



    Flamboyant looks are also good for species identification. Schooling bannerfish:



    I'm suggesting the male peacock's ornaments serve as species identification not individual attractiveness relative to other males. Because the male can afford to run around hunting for mates (and copulating with any that allow it), the female needn't advertise her species much. For that same reason the female most oblivious to male advertisement is most successful. Imagine if she stopped to watch and mate with every male who spread his tail. She'd have no surplus for her eggs.
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    Well, now you're changing your answer. First you said the difference was because female penguins have time to identify males and peahens don't, now you're saying (I think) the difference is because there is no risk of misidentification. This is not necessarily true with penguins. Again, you picked a convenient picture to support your ideas, but some penguins live in mixed company. On South Orkney Island, Chinstrap, Gentoo, and Adelie penguins all breed in the same place (sympatrically). (source) How is it that these penguins can identify each other just fine without dimorphism in ornamentation but peacocks can't?

    Walruses are also a potentially problematic example, because like peacocks they are sexually dimorphic, which according to your ideas should not occur because species identification is not a problem where they breed. But, it is a dimorphism in overall body size, and not in ornamentation (females also have tusks). How does this type of dimorphism fit into your theory?

    Because the male can afford to run around hunting for mates (and copulating with any that allow it), the female needn't advertise her species much.
    Again, more assumptions. Can he? What if one male spends more time approaching females of other species than he approaches females of his own species? Those males which are more discerning and focus all their attention on females of their own species may win out in reproductive success. Or they may not. You can't just say this is true without any data to back it up.

    For that same reason the female most oblivious to male advertisement is most successful. Imagine if she stopped to watch and mate with every male who spread his tail. She'd have no surplus for her eggs.
    Now I'm just confused. The male's colors allow the female to identify him as a member of her own species, yet your hypothesis predicts that in actuality she shouldn't be looking at his colors at all?

    You really do need to ground your ideas a little bit more in actual data, Pong. For example, I think it's safe to say you are not aware the peacocks lek - during the breeding season, groups of males gather together to display to females. Females are discerning and prefer to choose mates out of larger leks as opposed to smaller ones. Clearly females do actually look at males, and move to areas where there are no other individuals of other species, and in fact prefer to pick a mate in places where there are MORE males to inspect, not less. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lek_(mating_arena)) Once at a lek, certain males will attract more females than others. How would you account for that?
    Man can will nothing unless he has first understood that he must count on no one but himself; that he is alone, abandoned on earth in the midst of his infinite responsibilities, without help, with no other aim than the one he sets himself, with no other destiny than the one he forges for himself on this earth.
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    I think the theory that its simply for species identification goes out the window when you consider the displays done with the tail. The peacock doesn't walk around 24/7 with his tail up and fluttering, only when a female crosses his path does he perform those acts which says to me that it is for mating purposes and not species identification. The same thing goes for birds of paradise, cardinals and the obvious difference in color or most other birds you look at. The only reason that penguins are an exception here is because they use "songs" for mating instead of looks. When their time is spent building up enough energy stores to last that dreadful winter, they can't use any of that energy on frivolous things like colorful tails so instead they use songs.

    Its all about environment. Peacocks simply have an easier time when it comes to gathering food etc... so they have that extra energy to spend on things like their eye feathers. I'm just not convinced that any animal would go through that much trouble simply to identify the species. There are much easier ways to do that, like their calls or their songs. That's already a species identification so why have another, physical one?
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  9. #8  
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    Quote Originally Posted by salukigirl
    species identification... why have another, physical one?
    You're arguing with yourself. :wink:

    Species identification vs. mate selection are often confused. From the individual's point of view just identifying one's own, regardless of sex, is often more important. This costs attention, and is really hard for humans to relate with because most of our attention is free to compare and rate each other. With some exceptions animals are better off with brains dedicated to immediate survival. Many animals don't even spare a special regard for their own species. Others, like the schooling bannerfish, stick to some bold pattern like glue.

    Sexual selection then, from the individual's perspective, is not an act of weighing one individual against another. It's an act of responding to clear species/sex displays, and sacrificing time, brain cells, energy and often personal safety, to mating. The individual's selection is not so much about who to mate with as whether to mate at all, at any given moment.


    Quote Originally Posted by paralith
    For that same reason the female most oblivious to male advertisement is most successful. Imagine if she stopped to watch and mate with every male who spread his tail. She'd have no surplus for her eggs.
    The male's colors allow the female to identify him as a member of her own species, yet your hypothesis predicts that in actuality she shouldn't be looking at his colors at all?
    Yes I predict that males, if relatively free to invest in costly mating behaviours and displays and challenged by female priority to minimize her own investment in the whole business of mating, will fight a losing battle against female indifference.

    The males will basically manage the selection process. They may also lock horns or drive dung balls after the lady beetles, etc. In any case the female gets to devote her more valuable energies to reproduction not selection.

    A University of Tokyo study last year found no correlation between peacock copulation success and tail size or pattern. Apparently a relatively nice tail is no sure winner. I read a comment by peacock breeder that might shed some light: he said that his most successful bird has a relatively small tail, but that bird is very attentive and waits for females to finish eating before he "struts his stuff". This same bird is described as selective and coercive. As we know, male fowl are pretty despotic regarding the hens they chase. I don't see how females get the option - or cost - of selecting a mate here.


    This contrasts with sexy son hypothesis, which treats the female as actively selective, weighing one male against another.
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  10. #9  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pong
    Yes I predict that males, if relatively free to invest in costly mating behaviours and displays and challenged by female priority to minimize her own investment in the whole business of mating, will fight a losing battle against female indifference.

    The males will basically manage the selection process. They may also lock horns or drive dung balls after the lady beetles, etc. In any case the female gets to devote her more valuable energies to reproduction not selection.
    I'm still confused, Pong. You're predicting that females are selected to practically ignore males. If that is the case, why on earth would the male evolve such a large costly signal that will not even affect the female's behavior? Your hypothesis suggests that males of this species should have lost this signal long ago because it does not actually benefit them in any way.

    You're also assuming that the act of choosing/identifying a mate is very costly to females. Is it? How much brain power do you think it takes to identify and have a preference for a certain pattern of colors and shapes? Would individuals with brains capable of this have so much less energy available to devote to reproduction that the dumber females would win out? Do you have any empirical data that speaks to this whatsoever?

    A University of Tokyo study last year found no correlation between peacock copulation success and tail size or pattern. Apparently a relatively nice tail is no sure winner.
    Can you provide a link to the study please? I'd like to know if they included color intensity. Synthesizing pigment is a costly process, and may be even more so than growing large feathers. Did this study describe the mating process? Was it a matter of females choosing certain males or not?

    I read a comment by peacock breeder that might shed some light: he said that his most successful bird has a relatively small tail, but that bird is very attentive and waits for females to finish eating before he "struts his stuff". This same bird is described as selective and coercive. As we know, male foul are pretty despotic regarding the hens they chase. I don't see how females get the option - or cost - of selecting a mate here.
    You seem to contradict yourself in here. First: the male who waits patiently for the female to finish feeding is more likely to get the female to allow him to mate with her. Second: this SAME male coerces her, a.k.a. FORCES her to mate with him. Which is it? He waits for her to choose him or he forcefully mates with her?

    You also cannot assume that captive animals behave the same as animals in the wild. A peahen trapped in a pen has no where to go - in the wild, she may easily just run away from any male who gets too pushy. If males do just force females to mate with them in the wild, then again - why grow the big tail? Do they use the tail in the act of forcing the female? What benefit does it bring them if the females just ignore them and wait for any old male to come up and fertilize them?
    Man can will nothing unless he has first understood that he must count on no one but himself; that he is alone, abandoned on earth in the midst of his infinite responsibilities, without help, with no other aim than the one he sets himself, with no other destiny than the one he forges for himself on this earth.
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  11. #10  
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    Quote Originally Posted by paralith
    You're predicting that females are selected to practically ignore males. If that is the case, why on earth would the male evolve such a large costly signal that will not even affect the female's behavior? Your hypothesis suggests that males of this species should have lost this signal long ago because it does not actually benefit them in any way.
    I'm saying the signal just barely does affect the female, just enough to breed. Any more distraction is... well, a distraction. Optimally the female invests no more into mating than required to fertilize her eggs. The male has different priorities. Basically, he wants to inseminate as much as possible the largest harem he can manage. So he invests in mating e.g. distracting females, and in the peacock's case he has a lot of spare time/energy for that pursuit. It's a push/pull relationship. Females respond to bolder displays by growing desensitized.



    Quote Originally Posted by paralith
    You're also assuming that the act of choosing/identifying a mate is very costly to females. Is it? How much brain power do you think it takes to identify and have a preference for a certain pattern of colors and shapes? Would individuals with brains capable of this have so much less energy available to devote to reproduction that the dumber females would win out? Do you have any empirical data that speaks to this whatsoever?
    Empirical data. Uh, how about an anecdote.

    I used to have a Siamese fighting fish and an American anole, both male, side by side in tanks. They could view each other through the glass. The males of both species sport a red dewlap, for territorial assertion against competing males and also courtship display. These meatheads used to ram the glass, jaws snapping, absolutely determined to fight. It usually began with the lizard noticing the fish's dewlap, then doing "pushups" to extend his own red dewlap. That really pressed the fish's buttons. Their rivalry was absurd because their signals and responses are meant for their own species.

    That informs me that many animals have a dim or nonexistent image of species, including their own. They respond to cues, preferably strong ones. Why not subtle? Why would they process subtleties unless necessary? I think we should appreciate that animals perceive their environments with the slightest investment of sensory organs and brain that gets the job done. What doesn't matter to them, they simply don't see. So just how blinkered and dopey can a female peacock afford to be? Regarding mates, with their cooperation, I think very.

    That's a small savings on her part. Perception needn't be "very costly" for selection to apply. Selection is a miser.

    As I see it, the males are chasing female attention not just in animal space but also in genetic space. And the female's genes are in retreat.

    Quote Originally Posted by paralith
    link to the study please?
    The great irony of the internet is that I can use it to pinpoint US aircraft carriers, but I can't read all the CERN web pages. Here's a start. If you have access to Animal Behaviour the March 10th article is Hens You Win, Tails You Lose… The study seems exhaustive but I don't know the details. Do note this was feral population in Japan and may differ from other populations.

    Quote Originally Posted by paralith
    You seem to contradict yourself in here. First: the male who waits patiently for the female to finish feeding is more likely to get the female to allow him to mate with her. Second: this SAME male coerces her, a.k.a. FORCES her to mate with him. Which is it? He waits for her to choose him or he forcefully mates with her?
    I just reported what a peacock breeder said. As I imagine it, the peacock doesn't impose himself on hens preoccupied with feeding time. When they're "available" i.e. poking around aimlessly he then presents and I guess corrals the hens to where he wants them... as cocks of all kinds tend to do. Almost all male fowl are coercive towards hens, the males of some species (e.g. roosters) are downright tyrannical. But try to get rape out of your mind. Sex doesn't happen without the female's cooperation, and the female does cooperate when she perceives the right signals.

    The female chooses by ignoring sex signals or perceiving them. She becomes more choosy by raising her threshold of signal awareness, i.e. "dumb", which costs her less than nothing.
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  12. #11 Re: Dumb daughter hypothesis 
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pong


    Dumb daughter hypothesis may dovetail with or replace sexy son hypothesis, which states evolution of male ornament is driven by female preference for mates who provide more attractive sons.

    My alternate explanation postulates that the most successful breeding arrangement has the female as oblivious, single-minded eating machine. Any other investments in time, energy, behaviour, physiology, or attention are frivolous wastes of mother resources and best borne by the male. Therefore the female's recognition of suitable mate is orchestrated by the male, while she takes a passive even reluctant role. She has more important things to think about than male beauty. She'd best ignore a male altogether unless he really gets "in her face". For the male's part, he has nothing better to do.
    What is the mating process then? I am not clear on how your hypothesis explains the big tail and the male's beauty, especially if the female has more important things to think about.
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    The female's mate selection thresholds adapt such that she is nearly oblivious to male signals. The males may evolve ever bolder displays, but the female just keeps raising the bar so to speak, which is good for reproduction as she needn't waste much attention on mate selection.

    I'll give human analogy of this threshold raising, but please don't jump all over it 'cause human selection is convoluted and somewhat inverted from the norm. Suppose a marriage-minded lady will only consider rich suitors. Rich in her mind, that is. Suppose she lives in Singapore 2045 and every guy owns three yachts. We may think oh wow fireworks so much good to choose from, but our lady doesn't see that way. She just sees a blah environment devoid of Mr. Right. That's how the peahen sees peacocks. She hardly notices plumage and doesn't rate it. She is so "dumb" to male signals that her part in "choosing" a mate occurs when the boldest signals get totally in her face, and she thinks, "Oh, that's new: a mate," and then she pauses to allow copulation with the only potential mate she's noticed in a long time. Though to our eye she is surrounded by potential mates, they just don't catch her eye as such.

    This indifference on the female's part is advantageous because optimally she puts all her attention into survival and reproduction not mate selection. Because the male need only invest sperm he can afford to pay keen attention to mating and invest the slack of his existence in mating overtures and competing with other males. Effectively the males manage sexual selection.

    So what is driving what. First, a relatively plush existence for males. That gives them surplus which they spend in sexual selection. Then females spend less themselves in finding mates. Additionally, as males continue to push sex to the limit of their own relative surplus, the females' standards rise.
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  14. #13  
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    I still think the peacock is sexy, my son, regardless of what you say.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pong
    The female's mate selection thresholds adapt such that she is nearly oblivious to male signals. The males may evolve ever bolder displays, but the female just keeps raising the bar so to speak, which is good for reproduction as she needn't waste much attention on mate selection.

    I'll give human analogy of this threshold raising, but please don't jump all over it 'cause human selection is convoluted and somewhat inverted from the norm. Suppose a marriage-minded lady will only consider rich suitors. Rich in her mind, that is. Suppose she lives in Singapore 2045 and every guy owns three yachts. We may think oh wow fireworks so much good to choose from, but our lady doesn't see that way. She just sees a blah environment devoid of Mr. Right. That's how the peahen sees peacocks. She hardly notices plumage and doesn't rate it. She is so "dumb" to male signals that her part in "choosing" a mate occurs when the boldest signals get totally in her face, and she thinks, "Oh, that's new: a mate," and then she pauses to allow copulation with the only potential mate she's noticed in a long time. Though to our eye she is surrounded by potential mates, they just don't catch her eye as such.

    This indifference on the female's part is advantageous because optimally she puts all her attention into survival and reproduction not mate selection. Because the male need only invest sperm he can afford to pay keen attention to mating and invest the slack of his existence in mating overtures and competing with other males. Effectively the males manage sexual selection.

    So what is driving what. First, a relatively plush existence for males. That gives them surplus which they spend in sexual selection. Then females spend less themselves in finding mates. Additionally, as males continue to push sex to the limit of their own relative surplus, the females' standards rise.
    So when boiled down to the small, what you are saying is the penhen prefers the biggest, boldest tail, and most aggressive peacock. How is that any different from the current theory that postulates that peahens go for the biggest tail or the flashiest peacock? It looks to me you are just restating the null hypothesis in your own words based on your own interpretation of it.

    1. The female is indifferent to the flash.
    2. But if the flash is exceptionally flashy, she is nolonger indifferent.

    Just another way of stating that pehens dig the biggest tail.
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  16. #15  
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    Quote Originally Posted by williampinn
    what you are saying is the penhen prefers the biggest, boldest tail, and most aggressive peacock.
    I'm saying that peahens, foremost, "prefer" to pay minimal regard to sexual selection. They prefer to notice males and copulate no more than necessary. Their evolutionary attitude, then, is in retreat from sexual overtures. The peacocks, conversely, prefer a meatmarket, since they have nothing better to do than dazzle peahens and spread their sperm around.

    Quote Originally Posted by williampinn
    How is that any different from the current theory
    Quote Originally Posted by Richard Dawkins
    In a society where males compete with each other to be chosen as he-men by females, one of the best things a mother can do for her genes is to make a son who will turn out in his turn to be an attractive he-man. If she can ensure that her son is one of the fortunate few males who wins most of the copulations in the society when he grows up, she will have an enormous number of grandchildren. The result of this is that one of the most desirable qualities a male can have in the eyes of a female is, quite simply, sexual attractiveness itself.
    I'm suggesting that doesn't work, because the last thing a mother wants is for her daughters to waste time gawking after hypersexed males and getting futtered every time their balls recharge. I'm saying the males, not females, push the bling bling.


    Another human illustration, but again watch out for humans have this sorta backward. Let's say we have a breadwinner. If this were peafowl, that would be the female; but in humans that is stereotypically the working man. The energy and attention he spends in earning money is crucial to the success of his offspring. Ideally, when he works late he really does. If he's somewhat blind to female charms, that's OK. In fact his offspring would be imperiled if he let a younger vixen sink her claws into him. Vixen? Yup so is his wife. While the breadwinner has a serious career, she'd earn woman's wages so she doesn't bother. She's free to spend a lot of time enhancing her charms. That's how she bagged Mr. Right in the first place. Mascara and sequins. She had to fight a bit to get noticed. OK like I warned sex and reproduction among humans isn't so pat as peafowl. But consider which sex is really driving female beauty. How can our honest dentist - an ideal father - be the cause of female beauty with half a dozen painted females maneuvering for his attention and love? See, this is not just another way of saying women are heavily invested in appearance because men selected them to be so, for the sake of sexiness. Rather, women pushed, and men raised their standards accordingly. Ultimately future fathers do have to allow some selection (of themselves), but the inflation of female sexiness is not really in their genetic interest.

    Eh, I dunno if bringing humans in was such a good idea. It's an illustration maybe people relate with all too well.

    Here the costs of having sexy son fruitflies running amok were found detrimental to future daughter generations. And that's without natural selection pressure.

    Here sexy son genes were found to jam fit daughter genes.

    Dumb daughter hypothesis isn't meant to blow away sexy son - rather counterpoint it.
    A pong by any other name is still a pong. -williampinn
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    Are you actually serious, or did you just want practice at defending the indefensible?
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