New research published last week describes how black widow spiders destroy their mate’s nests to deter rival males.
Nice guys finish last? Not for the hermit crab – shy males produce more sperm and are more successful with the ladies.
While we accept the individual differences in behaviour between humans without question, terming it ‘personality’, the idea personality in animals has been met with great scepticism. However, evidence for consistent behavioural differences between individuals, known as personality or behavioural syndromes, is now widespread, the question remaining is why? What is the benefit of personality? Some scientists suggest that different personalities represent different life strategies relating to risk taking and investing in the future, others suggest that personalities exist because environmental conditions are variable and different strategies fair better under different conditions.
Human activities are altering landscapes, dividing habitats and changing ecosystems. We rarely hear of any good coming from this, mostly because there isn’t. However, recent research has revealed an interesting evolutionary consequence of road construction for a small fish in the Bahamas. Over just 50 years of evolution, females in fragmented populations have exercised their preference to produce males that are better equipped to please them and more considerate of their feelings.
Humans are constantly modifying our landscape to make it more connected. We build roads, tunnels and bridges, we design boats and planes, all in an attempt to maximise our ability to move around. At the same time, these human structures are dividing ecological landscapes – our roads create barriers that keep many species from crossing and can have a significant impact on ecosystems. This is known as habitat fragmentation and it is one of the biggest concerns for biodiversity. Habitat fragmentation can split groups and isolate small, vulnerable or unviable populations. This can be a huge problem, reducing genetic diversity and leading to local or even global species extinction.
Beards. You either love ’em or you hate ’em. Science tells us that beards make a man look more masculine, older and more powerful. Apparently women think they’ll make better fathers. But new research published earlier this year suggests that the attractiveness of beards might merely come down to their novelty – beards are under negative frequency-dependent sexual selection, and we may soon pass peak beard.
As movember draws to a close, I for one shall breath a sigh of relief – don’t get me wrong, I’m all for it as a charitable campaign and I’m sure it does a great deal of good, but as one of many single women who doesn’t appreciate facial hair, November has recently become the most dangerous month for dating. You can argue about it until you’re blue in the face (and I have done – well, almost!) but ultimately the facial hair debate is a matter of opinion.
In literature, television and film, the eyes are often imbued special meaning; the idea that you can tell something about a person, or what they are thinking or feeling, by gazing into their eyes. Eye colour is often considered a very straight-forward trait, with eyes being either brown, blue or green. But it is easily apparent that there is far more variation in human eye colour than that allows for, and that its inheritance is not always what one might expect. There are even some people out there who will try to convince you that your eye colour is controlled by diet. What really controls the appearance of our eyes? What are our eyes saying about us?
Women are from Venus, men are from Mars. Countless films, books, plays and poems have focused on this hyperbole. But why are men and women different? What is the origin of the differences between the sexes?