The following was inspired by a recent article in the Washington Post, sent to Life in the Boomer Lane by an alert reader. The fact that LBL is writing about this is in no way indicative of her disrespect for men. Nor is it her intention to be the female version of Donald Trump. She merely presents this to loyal readers as a public service and an indication that scientists, when they run out of interesting things to research, sometimes turn on their own kind to trash.
The Post article states that “Sex is a messy, inefficient method of reproducing, but most multi-cellular organisms have evolved to rely on a partner regardless. It’s generally accepted that species accept the inefficiency of sexual reproduction because something about the process gives us an evolutionary boost.” The phrase “evolutionary boost” was not explained, although untold numbers of inebriated college kids and patrons of Las Vegas most likely understand what that boost might entail.
Lead study author and professor Matt Gage explains. “Why should any species waste all that effort on sons? We wanted to understand how Darwinian selection can allow this widespread and seemingly wasteful reproductive system to persist, when a system where all individuals produce offspring without sex — as in all-female asexual populations — would be a far more effective route to reproduce greater numbers of offspring.”
The research project arose because generations of both scientists and females who frequented singles bars have noted that “males are nothing but parasitic sperm-producers that latch onto their females of choice.”
The only explanation of why men exist is that sex allows for sexual selection, which is inherently good for the species. If the choices were left entirely to men, natural selection would have ultimately led to all women being mostly silent, but having superb culinary skills.
To test their theory, researchers at the University of East Anglia created an experiment that removed selection from sex. Because that resulted in no humans volunteering for the research, beetles were used. Fifty generations of them. Researchers, in an attempt to discover why beetles chose one potential partner over another, came to the following conclusion: “When it’s time to create a new generation, the males of a species often contribute nothing but genetic material to the mix.”
In one test group, beetles were randomly paired up into monogamous couples. Others had an increasingly uneven male-to-female ratio, with the most extreme group having only 10 females to 90 males. That meant the ladies had plenty of choices, whereas the control group females had no choice at all. Locks had to be placed on cages of the control group, to keep them from attempting to sneak into the cages with the females who were given the optimal ratio. Females in the optimal ratio group, while obviously exhausted, still indicated a preference to continue with the experiment.
After seven years under those conditions, it was noted that the females in the optimal ratio group felt no need to spend hours improving their appearance before meeting males. Female beetle attendance at gyms plummeted.
Sexual selection gave the beetles an edge, because females with a choice — and many males competing for their attention — were less likely to mate with genetic losers.
The Post concludes “It’s not groundbreaking by any means, but it’s a great example of how low-tech experiments can better our understanding of the natural world. And a reminder that we’re lucky we don’t reproduce by budding.”
Although the beetles, were not asked to comment about the research, an unnamed spokesbeetle said, “Since the study ended, our females have been out of control. It was so much easier before we all became sex objects.”