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17 April 2014 12:48 pm ,
Vol. 344 ,
Officials last week revealed that the U.S. contribution to ITER could cost $3.9 billion by 2034—roughly four times the...
An experimental hepatitis B drug that looked safe in animal trials tragically killed five of 15 patients in 1993. Now,...
Using the two high-quality genomes that exist for Neandertals and Denisovans, researchers find clues to gene activity...
A new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concludes that humanity has done little to slow...
Astronomers have discovered an Earth-sized planet in the habitable zone of a red dwarf—a star cooler than the sun—500...
Three years ago, Jennifer Francis of Rutgers University proposed that a warming Arctic was altering the behavior of the...
- 17 April 2014 12:48 pm , Vol. 344 , #6181
- About Us
Lady in Red
22 October 2001 7:00 pm
Sperm is cheap and eggs are precious, the usual story goes. That's why, in the animal world, males tend to be promiscuous and females more discerning. As a consequence, males have evolved bright colors, ornate horns, absurd tails and other ornaments to strut their stuff. But a paper in the 16 October early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that, under certain circumstances, females can be just as eager to impress.
Evolutionary biologist Trond Amundsen of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim and his Swedish colleague Elisabet Forsgren of Göteborg University studied the two-spotted goby (Gobiusculus flavescens), a small fish in which the females sport a bright orange-red belly during the mating season. Males establish nests to attract females and later protect the eggs, so fatherhood is not a hit-and-run affair. Moreover, toward the end of the breeding season, males mysteriously die off, leaving the remaining males in the enviable position of choosing from many available females.
This female ornamentation led Amundsen and Forsgren to test if male gobies are indeed doing the selecting toward the end of the mating season. They put males in tanks where each could see (but not touch) two females: one with a bright red belly, the other less bright. The males directed 80% of their displays toward the red-bellied females, all but ignoring the drabber ones--the first ever proof that females evolve traits to attract males, Amundsen says. To double-check, the researchers beautified the bellies of understated females with a red felt-tip marker. When given the choice between these and untreated drab females, the males once again courted the red ones. "We were astonished that the results matched so well," says Amundsen, who hopes that their study will open a new "female beauty" chapter in sexual selection research.
The experiments are "elegant," says an impressed Iain Barber, who investigates mate choice in fish at the University of Wales in Aberystwyth. He adds that the logical next step would be to find out if redness correlates with some other female quality, like the size or number of eggs.