November 17, 2007 | David F. Coppedge

Males on “Evolutionary Overdrive”

A press release from University of Florida claims males evolve faster than females, and suggests a reason.  It’s because males are simpler.  Some quotes:

The observation that males evolve more quickly than females has been around since 19th century biologist Charles Darwin noted the majesty of a peacock’s tail feather in comparison with the plainness of the peahen’s.
    No matter the species, males apparently ramp up flashier features and more melodious warbles in an eternal competition to win the best mates, a concept known as sexual selection.
    Why males are in evolutionary overdrive even though they have essentially the same genes as females has been a mystery, but an explanation by University of Florida Genetics Institute researchers … may shed light on the subject.
    “It’s because males are simpler,” said Marta Wayne….
    It turns out that the extra X in females may make answering the call of selection more complicated….
    …“males have only one X inherited only from their mother.  This is a simple mechanism that could be working in cooperation with sexual selection to help males evolve more quickly.
    Researchers believe this relatively uncomplicated genetic pathway helps males respond to the pressures of sexual selection, ultimately enabling them to win females and produce greater numbers of offspring.

The article did not consider the possibility that females, having a double dose of genes on the X chromosome, might be evolving faster.  The researchers seemed to assume that flashier traits are a metric of evolutionary speed.  There would be no reason to exclude the possibility that plainness or camouflage might actually require more selection.

For assuming male traits are merely products of selection, for visualizing evolution as a car engine and a recruiter, for personifying evolution as an invisible agent helping males to evolve, for considering genetic mechanisms of reproduction and inheritance as simple things, and for implying that fitness is a function of number of offspring (a tautology), this article wins Stupid Evolution Quote of the Week.
    Once again, winning the sex game is the only virtue in evolution.  Students raised on a steady diet of Darwin can kiss good-bye to purpose, values, morals, reason, standards, service to others, and truth.  If the researchers behind this story were consistent, they would quit the science lab and just go try to distribute their genes as far and wide as possible.  But if you asked them why they were doing this, they would not be able to give any reason for it – not even a Darwinian one.  Do a very un-Darwinian thing: think about it.

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Categories: Dumb Ideas

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