Female Choice – why has it not produced perfection?

According to Darwin, the female of the species could guide evolution by favouring the aesthetically blessed and harshly casting aside the not-so-fortunate. If generations of women have been making these choices, surely the world would be full of good-looking men yet, unfortunately, it most definitely isn’t. This disappointing situation is an example of the ‘lek paradox’. Why are there still good and bad looking men, if females have consistently been choosing the best looking? One possibility is that the difference is not genetic, yet all the available evidence suggests otherwise (backed up by breeding experiments in non-human species).

Professor Marion Petrie and Dr Gilbert Roberts at Newcastle University provide another explanation for this paradox in their paper in the April issue of Heredity. The authors, using computer simulations, show that female choice can in fact lead to bursts of mutation affecting male attributes. The elevated mutation would throw up even more attractive males, sadly mutation is a blind and random process, so at the same time it produces the less attractive as well.

Click here to read the Heredity article

Click here to read Cotton and Pomiankowski’s Heredity News and Commentary on this paper

Click here to read King and Kashi’s Heredity News and Commentary on this paper

Click here to view the BBC story on this paper

Click here to view the Times comment on this paper

Latest papers on Heredity.

Please cite Heredity as the source of the following items. If publishing online, please carry a hyperlink to http://www.nature.com/hdy/index.html.

This month we find out if inbreeding spells doom for endangered populations, whether bottlenecks can lead to degeneration of genes, how X chromosome influences sperm length and much more.

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Rapid Correspondence – Inheritance of litter size in arctic foxes

After reading with interest the recent paper by Axenovich et al. (Heredity 98:99-105) and the commentary on it by R F Nespolo (Heredity 98:63-64), Philip Hedrick has written this short commentary on their findings that puts their conclusions in a familiar context for the readers of Heredity.

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Your chance to respond

There is a widespread view that peer-review could be improved, using the opportunities provided by the web; see here: http://blogs.nature.com/peer-to-peer/

Another model is to publish papers accompanied by referees’ comments, and correspondence columns offer an analogous forum to air legitimate differences of scientific opinion.

This blog will attempt to combine some of the better aspects of these approaches. It will evolve in the light of Heredity readers and authors’ recommendations, but I have in mind that we will use it to

1) Publish rapid feedback on papers that have appeared in Heredity: the paper is wrong because … , readers should also see paper x because … . i.e. something like a correspondence section of a journal, but with the merit of being very fast and brief. The more incisive or interesting comments could be published in print.

2) Publish comments provided for public consumption by the referees: the paper is controversial because … but I recommend publication because … .

3) To publish discussion on the editorial direction of the journal. In large part the content of Heredity is determined by what is submitted, but the News & Commentaries, Short Reviews and Special Issues are commissioned. Are we neglecting important areas?

Contributions will be screened before being posted. Please reply to the appropriate topics to contribute.