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Title: Program of the 87th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists
Across taxa, sexually selected traits are more variable in the target sex than 1) the same trait in the opposite sex or 2) non-sexually selected traits, likely due to their condition-dependent expression. In humans, males show greater variability in certain cognitive abilities and brain structures that 1) may facilitate intra- or intersexual competition and 2) are greater/larger in males on average, suggesting these traits may also have been subject to sexual selection. This study investigates sex differences in brain structure variability in chimpanzees. Although male chimpanzees exhibit strong intrasexual competition, reproductive skew is reduced by female mate choice and male coercion. In vivo MRI scans were collected from 226 (135F/91M) individuals and surface areas were calculated for 25 cortical sulci. Outliers for each sex and sulcus were removed prior to analysis. We measured sex differences in variability by calculating the ratio of male-to-female standard deviations of MCMCglmm residuals, controlling for age, rearing condition, scanner type, and kinship. We tested for significant sex differences through permutation. We find that males are significantly more variable at the cingulate (ratio=1.18;p=0.043), middle-frontal (ratio=1.36;p=0.001), occipital-lateral (ratio=1.20;p=0.029), occipital- temporal-marginal (ratio=1.8;p=0.006), superior-temporal (ratio=1.36;p<0.001), subcentral-posterior (ratio=1.62;p=0.033), and superior-parietal (ratio=1.21;p=0.028) sulci. These regions are associated with social perception, face more » recognition, and motion prediction. Females are more variable at the medio-parietal-occipital sulcus (ratio=0.78;p=0.009), a region associated with planning. This is the first study to demonstrate greater male variability in brain structure in a nonhuman primate species, and suggests sexual selection may lead to greater variability in male cognition across taxa. « less
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Publication Date:
Journal Name:
American Journal of Physical Anthropology
supplement S66
Page Range or eLocation-ID:
1 to 312
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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  2. Abstract

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  4. BACKGROUND Charles Darwin’s  Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex  tackled the two main controversies arising from the Origin of Species:  the evolution of humans from animal ancestors and the evolution of sexual ornaments. Most of the book focuses on the latter, Darwin’s theory of sexual selection. Research since supports his conjecture that songs, perfumes, and intricate dances evolve because they help secure mating partners. Evidence is overwhelming for a primary role of both male and female mate choice in sexual selection—not only through premating courtship but also through intimate interactions during and long after mating. But what makes one prospective mate more enticing than another? Darwin, shaped by misogyny and sexual prudery, invoked a “taste for the beautiful” without speculating on the origin of the “taste.” How to explain when the “final marriage ceremony” is between two rams? What of oral sex in bats, cloacal rubbing in bonobos, or the sexual spectrum in humans, all observable in Darwin’s time? By explaining desire through the lens of those male traits that caught his eyes and those of his gender and culture, Darwin elided these data in his theory of sexual evolution. Work since Darwin has focused on howmore »traits and preferences coevolve. Preferences can evolve even if attractive signals only predict offspring attractiveness, but most attention has gone to the intuitive but tenuous premise that mating with gorgeous partners yields vigorous offspring. By focusing on those aspects of mating preferences that coevolve with male traits, many of Darwin’s influential followers have followed the same narrow path. The sexual selection debate in the 1980s was framed as “good genes versus runaway”: Do preferences coevolve with traits because traits predict genetic benefits, or simply because they are beautiful? To the broader world this is still the conversation. ADVANCES Even as they evolve toward ever-more-beautiful signals and healthier offspring, mate-choice mechanisms and courter traits are locked in an arms race of coercion and resistance, persuasion and skepticism. Traits favored by sexual selection often do so at the expense of chooser fitness, creating sexual conflict. Choosers then evolve preferences in response to the costs imposed by courters. Often, though, the current traits of courters tell us little about how preferences arise. Sensory systems are often tuned to nonsexual cues like food, favoring mating signals resembling those cues. And preferences can emerge simply from selection on choosing conspecifics. Sexual selection can therefore arise from chooser biases that have nothing to do with ornaments. Choice may occur before mating, as Darwin emphasized, but individuals mate multiple times and bias fertilization and offspring care toward favored partners. Mate choice can thus occur in myriad ways after mating, through behavioral, morphological, and physiological mechanisms. Like other biological traits, mating preferences vary among individuals and species along multiple dimensions. Some of this is likely adaptive, as different individuals will have different optimal mates. Indeed, mate choice may be more about choosing compatible partners than picking the “best” mate in the absolute sense. Compatibility-based choice can drive or reinforce genetic divergence and lead to speciation. The mechanisms underlying the “taste for the beautiful” determine whether mate choice accelerates or inhibits reproductive isolation. If preferences are learned from parents, or covary with ecological differences like the sensory environment, then choice can promote genetic divergence. If everyone shares preferences for attractive ornaments, then choice promotes gene flow between lineages. OUTLOOK Two major trends continue to shift the emphasis away from male “beauty” and toward how and why individuals make sexual choices. The first integrates neuroscience, genomics, and physiology. We need not limit ourselves to the feathers and dances that dazzled Darwin, which gives us a vastly richer picture of mate choice. The second is that despite persistent structural inequities in academia, a broader range of people study a broader range of questions. This new focus confirms Darwin’s insight that mate choice makes a primary contribution to sexual selection, but suggests that sexual selection is often tangential to mate choice. This conclusion challenges a persistent belief with sinister roots, whereby mate choice is all about male ornaments. Under this view, females evolve to prefer handsome males who provide healthy offspring, or alternatively, to express flighty whims for arbitrary traits. 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