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Sex and gender scientists explore a revolution in evolution

Sex and gender scientists explore a revolution in evolution

Darwin may have been wrong about sex. Or at least too narrow minded.

At the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, leading researchers and theorists in the evolution of sexual behavior will gather to present the growing evidence that Darwin's idea of sexual selection requires sweeping revisions.

''I don't have a theory to address it all by any means,'' says Stanford biologist Joan Roughgarden, who organized the Feb. 17 symposium. ''I'm just trying to get the extent of diversity on the table.''

Roughgarden will present the evidence that gender is not limited to the static male/female binary and that sex can have social as well as reproductive roles. Robert Warner of the University of California-Santa Barbara will speak about fish that change sex. David Crews of the University of Texas-Austin will address the tenuous path linking genetic sex to behavior. Patricia Gowaty of the University of Georgia will present a new hypothesis on how animals select their mates. And Paul Vasey of the University of Lethbridge will discuss his research on homosexual behavior among female Japanese macaques.

Sex and Darwin

Darwin's theories of natural selection are well established and generally accepted: ''Survival of the fittest'' leads to the evolution of a particular species over time, and species evolve from other species.

But a third theory has piggybacked upon the success of these other two: Darwin's theory of sexual selection. Sexual selection explains the evolution of physical and behavioral traits that increase the odds that an animal will reproduce. These same traits do not necessarily help the animal survive, as do naturally selected traits. The male praying mantis, for example, will sacrifice himself for love - the female begins to eat him even as they copulate. He doesn't survive long after finding his mate, but he doe
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Contact: Dawn Levy
dawnlevy@stanford.edu
650-725-1944
Stanford University
16-Feb-2003


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