Males exist. Does it matter?

Seminars in Ecology and Evolution 2013

FCUL, Edif. C2, Sala 2.2.14

Speaker: Hanna Kokko, Australian National University

Abstract: Surprisingly much of evolutionary and ecological theory has been developed as if males and females never differed from each other (or as if males did not exist). This is one of several reasons why evolutionary textbooks consider fitness as ever‐increasing. Yet natural selection is a shortsighted process: it acts far more strongly on the individual than the group, thus (to take species’ long term persistence as an example of a group‐ or populationlevel benefit) selection is not expected to equip species with best possible long‐term persistence or best possible population growth. Aspects of sexual reproduction in particular fall into the realm of the ‘tragedy of the commons’, predicting unwise use of essential resources for reproduction. I will draw examples from birds as well as fish, as well as from fundamental issues about male and female evolution: why do individuals specialize in producing sperm and eggs, and is this a ‘wise’ way to organize reproduction?