The Evolution of Beauty: How Darwin’s Forgotten Theory of Mate Choice Shapes the Animal World – and Us

The Evolution of Beauty: How Darwin's Forgotten Theory of Mate Choice Shapes the Animal World - and Us Author Richard O. Prum
ISBN-10 0385537212
ISBN-13 9780385537216
Year 2017-05-09
Pages 448
Language English
Publisher Doubleday
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A major reimagining of how evolutionary forces work revealing how mating preferenceswhat Darwin termed the taste for the beautiful create the extraordinary range of ornament in the animal world In the great halls of science dogma holds that Darwin s theory of natural selection explains every branch on the tree of life which species thrive which wither away to extinction and what features each evolves But can adaptation by natural selection really account for everything we see in nature Yale University ornithologist Richard Prumreviving Darwin s own viewsthinks not Deep in tropical jungles around the world are birds with a dizzying array of appearances and mating displays Club winged Manakins who sing with their wings Great Argus Pheasants who dazzle prospective mates with a four foot wide cone of feathers covered in golden 3D spheres Red capped Manakins who moonwalk In thirty years of fieldwork Prum has seen numerous display traits that seem disconnected from if not outright contrary to selection for individual survival To explain this he dusts off Darwin s long neglected theory of sexual selection in which the act of choosing a mate for purely aesthetic reasonsfor the mere pleasure of itis an independent engine of evolutionary change Mate choice can drive ornamental traits from the constraints of adaptive evolution allowing them to grow ever more elaborate It also sets the stakes for sexual conflict in which the sexual autonomy of the female evolves in response to male sexual control Most crucially this framework provides important insights into the evolution of human sexuality particularly the ways in which female preferences have changed male bodies and even maleness itself through evolutionary time The Evolution of Beauty presents a unique scientific vision for how nature s splendor contributes to a more complete understanding of evolution and of ourselves

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