Just how an individual finds its best mate isnt really known, said Gowaty, though theres some evidence that he or she may be somehow sensing the advantage of the potential mates immune system in relation to the choosers own. She points out that many factors are probably at work, including behavioral cues and what potential resources a mate may bring.
While the strategies for dealing with nonpreferred mates can help offspring, advantages for the mating pairs themselves are less clear. In experimental situations, for example, females mated to non-preferred males didnt live as long as females mated to their preferred choice.
One interesting aspect of the study is its implication that all individuals in a species have a flexible response to such problems as constraints on expression of their mating preferences. If thats true, it hints that compensation may evolvewhich could add an unexpected wrinkle to the story of natural selection.
How compensation evolves is crucial, Anderson said.
The issues at stake are, in fact, even broader.
The study also has implications for conservation because it suggests that the best way to keep species alive may be, if possible, to let individuals choose their own mates, said Gowaty.
The Compensation Hypothesis is Gowatys work and was first published only four years ago, though she has been working on it for more than a decade.
Just howand ifthe hypothesis works in humans remains unknown, since studying the subject remains practically (and ethically) improbable. Still, the idea remains a deep part of popular culture.
When Mick Jagger sings You cant always get what you want, most of us nod. And then we start to plot a way around the problem.
|Contact: Kim Osborne|
University of Georgia