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Polygamy hurt 19th century Mormon wives' evolutionary fitness
Date:2/22/2011

of sexual selection on males by 58 percent.

"This study was very exciting for us, in large part because you just don't get to see the demographic effects of dramatically changing a mating system within a single population -- in any organism," Wade said. "It's an added bonus that this change from polygamy to monogamy just happened to involve people who kept such thorough records of the marriages, births and deaths at that time."

Wade, who specializes in the evolutionary biology of mating systems, says much of his work has elucidated and expanded on the ideas of Angus Bateman. Bateman, a prolific theorist, was unable to empirically test all his theories about mating and mating fitness before he died in 1996. Last year Wade and Northern Arizona University biologist Stephen Shuster co-wrote a retrospective on a classic paper Bateman wrote for the journal Heredity in 1948. Wade and Shuster extolled Bateman's vision, in particular the way in which Bateman thought sexual selection should be quantified. Bateman's critics thought his reductions of biology were too simplistic, yet Wade says Bateman's simple formulas are often dead-on.

"Bateman's ideas still are very much alive, the present study included," Wade said. "It was also his idea that selection could be stronger on males than on females, that what can be an advantage to males can be a disadvantage to females of the same species. And the advantage isn't just in having more mates. You may simply produce more offspring, than the average, if you're a male successful in reproductive competition against other males."

Which isn't to say systems of polygamy in humans or elsewhere in nature are necessarily good for all the males involved. Indeed, Wade says, polygamy is a bad thing for most males of a species.

"When the ratio of sexes is about equal, for every male that has three mates, there must be two males that have none," Wade said. "If a male has even more mates, then th
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Contact: David Bricker
brickerd@indiana.edu
812-856-9035
Indiana University
Source:Eurekalert  

Page: 1 2 3

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