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Sexual Selection: The Logical Imperative

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Current Perspectives on Sexual Selection

Part of the book series: History, Philosophy and Theory of the Life Sciences ((HPTL,volume 9))

Abstract

Modern sexual selection theory, developed from Darwin’s original intuition, is a cornerstone of evolutionary theory and represents the most parsimonious and robust explanation for a bewildering array of evolutionary patterns and diversity. Here we first outline the principles of modern sexual selection theory and discuss their heuristic value. Second, we review empirical demonstrations of the operation of sexual selection through the case study of the yellow dung fly. Finally, we propose that a sequence of evolutionary events flows inevitably from the early evolution of sexual recombination and gametes, to anisogamy and in dioecious organisms, to the unity sex ratio via Fisher’s principle. As Darwin and Bateman predicted, it was the primary sexual difference—anisogamy—that became an almost obligatory, irreversible transition favouring socio-ecological conditions that ultimately generated secondary differentiation of sexual strategies between the sexes, and typically plays a strong part in their maintenance (though sex roles can, rather rarely, be reversed). When considered within the broader context, sexual selection emerges deductively as the logical consequence of this evolutionary succession. We conclude by highlighting aspects integral to sexual selection theory that are currently the focus of on-going discussion.

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Correspondence to Geoff A. Parker .

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Acknowledgements

We thank Thierry Houquet for inviting us to write this chapter, for inviting us to the workshop he organised on sexual selection, which GAP was unfortunately unable to attend. We are especially indebted to Dr. Cathy H. Lucas for information on Cnidaria and for kindly allowing us to include her unpublished results on Periphylla periphylla, and to Prof. Paul A. Tyler for much helpful advice and information on GSI in marine invertebrates.

The notion of sexual selection as a logical imperative arising through the sequence of evolutionary events leading to highly differentiated males and females was to have been the central theme of a book entitled The Evolution of Sexual Strategy by GAP during the 1970s. This project was 70 % accomplished, mostly during a year (1978–79) in the Research Centre of King’s College, Cambridge, but was never completed after his return to Liverpool University in September 1979. GAP has often regretted this failure, but wishes to thank King’s College, Cambridge for the opportunity to work in the Research Centre, which nevertheless proved most stimulating.

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Parker, G., Pizzari, T. (2015). Sexual Selection: The Logical Imperative. In: Hoquet, T. (eds) Current Perspectives on Sexual Selection. History, Philosophy and Theory of the Life Sciences, vol 9. Springer, Dordrecht. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-017-9585-2_7

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