War of the sexes, 8

Update: The following text is rough draft. The series has been substantially revised and abridged, and the section by the YouTube blogger Turd Flinging Monkey is available in a single PDF: here.

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My extracts of John Sparks’ Battle of the Sexes may give the reader a taste of the flavor of his book. I ordered Sparks’ book while living in Manchester in 1999 and found this scientific area of observation of Nature more than fascinating: it contains the ABC to decode human sexuality.

turd-flinging-monkey

From this entry onwards I’ll be quoting and paraphrasing the blogger Turd Flinging Monkey, who uses this gravatar in YouTube. The most conspicuous difference between this blogger and academic naturalists is the blunt language he uses to state the obvious (keep in mind Spark’s excerpts in the previous entries):

  • Humans are animals too
  • Our primitive brain naturally overpowers our rationality
  • We are controlled by our primitive biological urges (e.g., sacrifice ourselves pursuing reproduction)
  • The enemy that would betray us males is our own biology
  • Men are wired to acquire resources, compete with other men and sacrifice ourselves in order to attract a mate.

Curiously, in the YouTube audio where the blogger stated the above he used an example of male birds trying to impress females quite similar to what Sparks wrote in the third entry.

In the next posts I’ll follow closely what the blogger has said in his videos and audios, starting from his oldest videos.

War of the sexes, 7

The battle continues

By nature, the negotiation between the sexes is a dynamic process. The tension between males and females continues and, accordingly, the compromises struck between them in their quest for genetic supremacy are ever changing.

The seeds of change can be detected on the rocky beaches of Rona on which grey seals breed. Rona is a small island well to the west of the Orkney Islands off the north coast of Scotland. At the best of times it is a wild and windy place, bearing the brunt of the Atlantic swell. In October, when the seals give birth and then immediately mate again, it is frequently lashed by gales; the exposed cliffs and gullies shudder under the pounding waves. But the appalling conditions are apparently of no consequence. Rona hosts the densest population of grey seals in the North Atlantic—about 600 breeding females.

The grey seal is a classical polygamous species with a very marked size difference between the sexes. Whereas every cow can expect to breed, the bulls are not so fortunate. Each one lives in the hope that one day he will be big enough and sufficiently good fighter to win his own harem of cows. Sexual selection among bull grey has therefore favoured the most powerful pugilists, and the biggest warriors get their chance to mate with perhaps a dozen females each season.

However, a few of the lesser bulls, which stand no chance of succeeding in combat, turn luckily—and it is all down to the cows. Although most happily fall for the victorious bulls, a minority of females take a fancy to the males of a more gentle disposition which lounge on the sidelines. Luckily grey seals can be recognised by their individual markings. It has therefore been possible to discover that these cows tend to return in successive years to the same males, and they appear to strike monogamous ‘marriages’.

greysealmatingClearly two separate mating strategies are underway, but perhaps the female grey seals are beginning to exercise a preference for less disruptive and less heavy bulls to father their pups. If so, their choice is nudging evolution towards establishing monogamy in place of the current strongly polygamous arrangement.

We know that the nature of habitats favours some breeding systems over others. Perhaps this is the case with these seals, which probably bred on sea ice during the last Ice Age. Now that the climate has improved and the ice retreated, grey seals may still be in the process of adapting to the change—and this includes establishing a new relationship between the sexes.

Published in: on October 30, 2016 at 1:25 pm  Comments (1)  
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War of the sexes, 6

 

Family affairs

Sex is divisive, disruptive and often destructive. The urge to reproduce frequently manifests itself in aggression, shattering social groups and driving animals to lead independent lives. Males are especially violent, battling over territories, jealously fighting for what they regard as their own and making as many sexual conquests as possible. Females, too, are capable of spinning their own webs of intrigue. As each mother is rooting only for her own offspring, she may attempt to spoil a rival female’s chances of breeding, or even surreptitiously maltreat or murder another mother’s infants to enhance the prospects of her own. Such activities are hardly conductive to smoothly running societies.

And yet a whole range of creatures manage to live in communities of one kind or another. The question arises as to how sex as a major source of tension is kept under control in species which, perhaps for environmental reasons, need to live in highly organised communities? The lifestyles of the gelada baboon illustrates how the uneasy relationship between oppressive males and fearful females works out in this very social primate…

No member of the troop is immune from the male’s temper. His most violent attacks are likely to be saved for the confident young bachelors which dare to challenge him for the harem, but even his ‘wives’ are wary of his anger and may be beaten without mercy, especially if they refuse to submit when he tries to force them into copulating… Of course, the mother of all fights for the despot is his final-show down when, after perhaps two years in power, he is toppled by whichever of the bachelors feels confident and strong enough to mount a challenge for the females… The takeover generally heralds a period of instability for the harem. The victorious male is inevitably inexperienced at disciplining a group of females, so they tend to wander apart and become prey to the attentions of other overlords and feisty bachelors.

Despite all the violence and apparent chaos in gelada groups, these animals still live together in troops up to 600 strong—bigger than the societies of any other primate, barring our own. So why do animals live in such super-families if this means exposing themselves to daily lives fraught with tension?
 
Machiavellian males

In Renaissance Italy, the statesman and author Niccolo Machiavelli realised the virtues of oppressive rulers with no moral scruples in uniting human societies, and pondered the relative merits of being loved or feared. Love, he reasoned, is maintained by obligations which can easily be broken when it is advantageous to do so. Fear, on the other hand, never fails to command respect because of the dread of punishment. So it is with many of our closest relatives; in a number of primate species, tyrannical males constantly chastise insubordinate members of their troops and coerce reluctant females to mate with them.

Monkeys and baboons are among the cleverest and craftiest of all animals. Living in troops, they are big-brained, bright creatures, capable of playing politics, all attempting to influence those around them for their own selfish ends. Indeed, it is thought that the need for complex interactions led to the evolution of intelligence in the first place, rather than vice versa. While feeding or mutually grooming, these animals appear peaceful, but they are keenly aware of each other’s rank, who is friends with whom and who must be treated with kid gloves. Such considerations create tensions that are liable to surface without much warning into bouts of bickering, or worse.

Sexuality is a major cause of strife. The ever-willing mature males are constantly exposed to the females within their troops and, when the latter come into full oestrus, the highest-ranking male—or ‘clique’ of males in some baboons and macaques—dictates which mates with them; this means either the top male or those which have curried favour with him. Less fortunate rivals which try to get in on the action are beaten up.

This monopoly of copulation in groups where there are several mature but subordinate males is bound to lead to frustration; this in turn can explode into jealous rages in which animals may be hurt. If dominant males do not get their own way, they are likely to punish whoever they see as the culprit. Even females are frequently bullied because they are not willing to mate as often as the males would like them to—a situation which can lead to rape. In one study, almost half of all copulations in a group of wild orang-utans happened after fierce resistance by the females had been overcome by the males.

In many primates, sexual aggravation is rather subtle, but in hamadryas baboons—the sacred baboon revered by the ancient Egyptians—the harassment is often gratuitously handed out by males and easy to observe. Hamadryas are swarthy animals with rather stocky legs admirably suited to scrambling around the steep gorges in the Middle East and the adjacent part of Africa where they live. The sexes are quite different from each other. Although the females look like regular brown baboons, their overlords are dressed to impress, with dog-like faces and bare buttocks in matching pink. Their drove-grey fur is fashioned in ‘poodle cut’, with tufts on the head and a long cape flowing from the shoulders to the hips, making them appear as large and as formidable as possible.

These Machiavellian tyrants are dedicated polygamists, each shepherding as many as ten females to form his own personal harem, which he maintains during his prime years. Each keeps his females close by to satisfy his smouldering sexual demands. They in turn keep him company for fear of being trashed or bitten should they wander too afar from his side. Their fear is well founded, because the males are aggressive disciplinarians and frequently threaten violence by eyebrow-raising, thumping the ground, ‘yawning’ and whetting their upper canines against the teeth of their lower jaws. Any breach of etiquette incurs the male’s wrath, often resulting in a humiliating neck bite for the offending female or a trashing for an immature male.

ape-orgasm
 
Machiavellian male. The dominant male hamadryas baboon is a bully, but has complete access to all the females of his harem. Females depend upon him to protect them.
 
The females exploit the male’s permanent interest in sex. They are able to vie with him for food and escape punishment simply by proffering their pink hind quarters. Presented with such an erotic appeasement gesture, the male is more likely to mount than to lash out. However, a female hamadryas which refuses to copulate with her male when he wants her to does so at her peril. Even so, many mating encounters look more like acts of aggression.

But why do females and low-ranking males stand for such oppressive treatment? As explained at the end of the last chapter, fierce males have their uses.

Published in: on October 29, 2016 at 10:51 pm  Comments (1)  
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War of the sexes, 5

The parental dilemma

There is a fascinating aspect of avian parenting. Birds perhaps more than any other group of animals show how the environment plays a key role in driving the separate interests of males and females.

Jacanas inhabit tropical pools and lakes and can pick their way across floating vegetation, spreading their weight on their very long toes—hence the alternative name of ‘lily-trotters’. Bearing a vermilion shield of their foreheads, American jacanas have reddish-brown plumage with brilliant golden-green pinions which are conspicuous in flight. But it is their breeding arrangements that make these birds especially interesting: the females practice a particularly extreme form of polyandry, with the males undertaking all the duties normally performed by their partners.

A female jacana enjoys the services of several males, which do all the work of building the floating nests, incubating the eggs for nearly a month until they hatch and then caring for the chicks for a further two months. They make devoted fathers and when danger threatens any of the brood, the chicks either shelter beneath his wings or, on a call from him, sink under the water with only the tip of their bill showing so that they can breath.

The females are 75 per cent larger than their mates, do all the courting and scrap among themselves for territories. The most successful fighters are the heaviest with the biggest, reddest wattles. The shields display a record of their owner’s fighting history, as the scars of old injuries are yellow. Such fierce females may manage to defend a territory with as many as six males. Within her area, each male has his own nest located in his own patch of vegetation, but as he is relatively puny, he is unable to drive off the trespassing females. When there is a female intruder, he screams for his own mate to defend his share of her freehold. In the event of a new hen taking over, the males make a feeble attempt to expel her, but within a few hours they have accepted the inevitable and mate with her. Such takeovers are bad news for the vanquished females, because the victor will set about destroying the eggs and methodically hunting down the chicks of her predecessor so that she can immediately employ the males to look after her own eggs.

In effect, a female jacana acts like a fierce egg factory with no constraint on her production line, completing a clutch of four every ten days or so. By contrast, the reproductive potential of each of her partners is severely limited because, once he has received a clutch of eggs, the male is tied up with parental responsibilities for the best part of three months. The female’s sexual potential is limited only by the number of males she can exploit and retain in the face of serious competition from other hens.

Apart from laying eggs, hen jacanas behave just like the strutting cocks of other species—they are big, aggressive, passionate and less choosy than most females about their sexual partners. On the other hand, their mates act like traditional hens—the caring, gentler sex. This is such a reversal of the normal situation that it raises the question, what are the special circumstances which favour the evolution of polyandry on such a scale?

The answer may be found in the rich environment which jacanas inhabit. With no shortage of moisture and heated by the tropical sun, the swamps are among the most productive places on the planet. Such is their immense fertility that it has been estimated that the calorific value of the food available on 1 square metre (10 square feet) of ground is equivalent to two dozen chocolate bars. In fact, for the jacanas, these places are like open bird tables groaning with goodies. So easy are the pickings that, unlike most female birds, hen jacanas have evolved into ‘battery hens’, churning out egg after egg with little physiological stress. They have therefore seized the reproductive initiative, pursuing a strategy of continuous egg production while coercing a coterie of males into incubating the eggs and guarding the chicks…

Jacanas are not the only birds to indulge in polyandry. Several kinds of shore birds practice it on the Arctic or sub-Arctic breeding grounds.
 
Single mothers

Examples of polyandry are few and far between for the simple reason that the environment rarely gives females such an easy ride as it does the jacanas and Arctic wading birds. For most birds, finding enough extra food to manufacture eggs packed with nutrients is an arduous business. World wide, hen birds are constrained in the number of eggs they can lay in a season and so they, as the limited resources, are fought over as the males—which are free to copulate with as many partners as they can secure. In most wading birds, wildfowl and members of the pheasant and goose family, all parental duties are sifted firmly on the females. Their mates play no part in incubation or protecting their vulnerable chicks after they have emerged from the eggs.

In all of these cases, the young are hatched in a relatively advanced state and can run around and forage for themselves. The parent which defects—whether it is the cock or the hen in the polygamous species—is therefore not needed as provider of food, which makes his or her desertion that much easier.

But there can be intense rivalry between single mothers and lone fathers. Barrow’s golden eye, for example, is a tough little diving duck and one population breeds on Lake Myvatn in Iceland. The females nest alongside fast flowing rivers leading out of the lake, and when the ducklings hatch the mother leads them on a perilous journey upstream to the best feeding areas. The journey is dangerous because they literally risk their lives getting there.

If they pass a male whose female is late hatching and still sitting on eggs, he mercilessly beats them to death, because he doesn’t want any ducklings competing with his own offspring. If they survive the hurdle and reach the feeding area, other females already there will also attack and kill newcomers to protect the best sources of food for their own broods. In July each year, the upper reaches of Lake Myvatn can be a scene of carnage, with hundreds of dead ducklings—the result of mothers furiously fighting for the interests of their own broods at the expense of others.
 
Mammals: natural-born mothers

In just over 90 per cent of birds, monogamy prevails. This reflects the near impossibility of females producing an unlimited supply of eggs in most habitats, and the fact that male birds are able to make a significant contribution to the survival of the chicks. But there is one major group of creatures in which this is not so—the mammals. Among these equally hot-blooded, very active animals, monogamy is confined to a mere 5 per cent; in the rest the males have completely opted out of parenting…

male-and-female-klipspringersDwarf antelopes—such as the klipspringers and dik-diks of southern and eastern Africa—are unusual among hoofed animals in that they go around in pairs. They frequent clustered bush and thickly vegetated forest where nourishing herbage of the kind that they like is widely scattered. It therefore pays these animals to be territorial so that they can acquire an intimate knowledge of the places where their food occurs.

The buck, which is often slightly smaller than his mate, ensures success in the paternity stakes by commandeering an area of desirable bush and then behaving as a constant consort to his female, never moving more than a few paces from her aside for fear of losing sight of her in the dense vegetation—and possibly losing his sexual monopoly of her as well. It has been recorded that a pair of klipspringers spend their entire adult lives literally within 5 metres (16 feet) of each other. When the fawns arrive, the female cares for them, though the father is always nearby, preoccupied with guarding the mother. Such long bonds lessen the competition between males and so preclude the need for large, aggressive bucks of the kind found in deer and some larger antelopes.

A similar situation prevails in gibbons. These singing apes from South-East Asia appear to live like happily married couples together with their immature children. However, on close inspection, it can be seen that a male gibbon is not so much a caring father as the guardian of the adult female with whom he has chosen to breed. He is also a valiant defender of the swathe of jungle through which she and their joint offspring need to forage for tender leaves and ripe fruit. For a male gibbon, monogamy pays reproductive dividends; by keeping a close track of his ‘wife’ in the complex, cluttered canopy of the rain-forest, he can be sure of fathering her offspring. Unlikely among apes, male gibbons are virtually indistinguishable from their mates—a characteristic that reflects the low level of competition for females.

Only the male siamang—the largest of the gibbons, from the Malay Peninsula of Sumatra—shows a high level of paternal interest, taking over the daily care of his infant when it is about a year old and continuing to look after it closely for the next two years.

Published in: on October 28, 2016 at 12:17 pm  Comments (2)  
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War of the sexes, 4

The sexual connection

This chapter is about some of the obvious and some of the surprising ways in which females force sperms to prove their worth before reaching their goal, and how males bypass—or cheat their way past—any obstacles put in the way of their gametes.

The quest for conception, which is fundamentally what the battle of the sexes is all about, has driven the evolution of bodily design, the greatest natural technology race on earth. As both sexes ‘strive’ to take control of the process of fertilization, the females develop hurdles for sperm to overcome, and the sperm’s delivery systems—the males—counter with cunning copulatory devices and practices which raise the odds on ensuing their success. This aspect of sexual strife is universal, even among lowly creatures such as millipedes, whose intricate love life belies their simple nature…

Bedbugs once inhabited bat caves and the dens of large European mammals. Now they are better known as denizens of dirty doss houses and squalid accommodation, and emerge at night to crawl stealthily between the bedclothes to suck blood, leaving only an irritating blotch on the skin as a memento of their visit.

The males avoid the natural genital route of inseminating their mates in favour of a rapid but uniquely barbarous method. They drive their penis like a hypothermic syringe through the body wall of the female and inject sperm directly into the cavity occupied by the circulating blood (the haemocoel). The process is known, appropriately, as ‘traumatic insemination’!
 
Penis power

Land vertebrates are not quite so enterprising as insects in the way they make the sexual connection. Their generations have a much slower turnover, and the relatively smaller populations mean that the engine of evolution works more slowly because innovations are thrown up less often. And yet the same considerations prevail.

In the paranoid quest for as many partners as possible, males attempt to scatter their seed in all directions, and females, in the search for the perfect male, ideally like to keep their options open by encouraging rivalry between sperm from different males. Whether aphid or elephant, ensuing paternity is an issue that exercises males, and females still seek the best fathers for their offspring…

The mammalian penis has a dual function, not only serving to pipe semen into the vagina, but also doubling up as a spout for directing urine away from the body. Fully grown African elephants have a mechanical difficulty during their rare bouts of pachydermous passion. Weighting up nearly 10 tones, they are rigidly constructed and incapable of gyrating their pelvis to dock their penis. The cows have evolved an unusual genital lay-out to assist intercourse—their vaginal opening has relocated from the usual position beneath the anus to a site under their baggy bellies where you would expect to find a navel. This saves the bull from having to attempt the impossible task of bringing his groin close up against his mate’s thighs in order to copulate.

Although the cow elephant’s low-slung vulva is much easier to reach, the bull still has to mount her, putting great stress not only on her legs, but also on his own hind quarters. Young cows occasionally break a leg as a result of being chased and mounted by heavyweight males.

Once in position, much of the action is performed by the bull’s ‘motorized’ penis. It is a monster, weighting 25 kilograms (55 pounds) and extending nearly 2 metres (6 foot 6 inches) under the influence of a pounding heart. The jumbo penis is also a veritable power-pack, containing not only erectile tissue but its own engine muscles, enabling it to trash around, searching for the vaginal opening. Shaped rather like a hook, it is well adapted for reaching a long way beneath the female’s belly and probing upwards, penetrating deeply into her low-slung receptacle to make contact with the cervix. After performing a few piston-like thrusts, the bull ejaculates. Once mating is complete, competition from other males forces the bull to protect his paternity by guarding the cow for a while, preventing her from taking another partner whose sperm might usurp his own.
 
Chastity belts

By means of packages of various kinds of extendible organs, males deposit their all-important sperms as close to the eggs as possible. And yet females can be promiscuous in the search for quality males and there are always rivals ready to seize an opportunity to mate. To counteract the danger, the males of some species go to extreme lengths to guarantee their paternity.

Male murcuri monkeys, which live in the Amazonian rain-forest, pump copious amounts of semen into the females and this coagulates into a conspicuous gelatinous plug. However, the females remain eager for sex and other males learn to winkle the plugs out before copulating. In the case of foxes and eastern grey squirrels in the USA, the females foil the males’ attempts to enforce further chastity by removing the rubbery copulatory plugs themselves within thirty seconds of mating, clearly indicating that there is a conflict between their own sexual agenda and that of the males…

The evolution of the sphragis has been one of escalating moves and counter-moves between males and females, males each attempting to gain the advantage over the other. Following insemination, males of many butterflies secrete a viscous plug that hardens and more or less seals their partner’s orifice. However, as the art of lock-picking flourished in medieval times when padlocks guarded the pudenda of love-lorn maidens, so the males of some butterflies are equipped with a pair of abdominal tweezers for extracting genital bungs, allowing them to supplant sperm from a previous partner.

The females of some species have also resisted the males’ attempts to enforce celibacy because they derive nutrients from the semen, and so for them promiscuity pays dividends in the form of bigger clutches of eggs. These females have responded to the males’ plugs by developing ‘externalized’ genitalia, surrounded by very smooth and glossy plates with the properties of teflon. During copulation, the males could not make their sexual stoppers stick and so the stage was set for the evolution of the ultimate chastity belt—the full sphragis. That of an Australian swallowtail or an apollo is virtually moulded on to and completely girdles the rear of the female’s abdomen, and can be removed only with the greatest of difficulty. Furthermore, they often bear long projections that trail beneath the body and act as a deterrent to other sexy males.
 
Bondage

‘Sperm wars’ favour the males which indulge in protracted copulations, because these give their own gametes more time to reach the eggs. Some male crustaceans, such as crabs, keep their mates to themselves by the simple expedient of carrying them around…

Mating moths and butterflies stay tied together for a day, while male locusts often stay mounted for two. This pales into insignificance when compared with male weevils belonging to the species Rhytirrhinus surcoufi; they have been recorded as staying on the backs of their mates for a month without losing contact, thus imposing a kind of monogamy on the females.
 
Dirty tactics

Aedes aegypti is one of the most notorious mosquitoes in the world, because egg-bound females carry the malignant virus responsible for yellow fever throughout tropical Africa and America. Deadly though they may be, one aspect f their sex life is fascinating. Once the female Aedes has been impregnated, her drive to mate vanishes.

The males are responsible for the sudden mood swing because their semen contains an hormone which is rapidly absorbed through the vaginal walls into the female’s nervous circuitry and switches off her urge to mate. As a sexual sedative, the substance is exceptionally potent; a sample taken from one male is sufficient to make over sixty females utterly frigid.
 
Lolitas

Such are the reproductive rewards for males of being the first to impregnate females that those of a few species are genetically primed to have sex with barely mature partners…

As with the Heliconids, sex is taken into the pupal case in Orygia splendida, a moth related to the gypsy moth. The male is normal looking with a pair of pretty wings, but the female is dowdy. In fact she never really grows up, because she becomes fertile as a grub, when still imprisoned in her cocoon. Without ever emerging into the light of day, she attracts a male to her by her irresistible smell. When a male alights, his exciting body odour stimulates her to claw a hole in her cocoon, which allows him to mate. Afterwards, he flies off to find another moth Lolita, while she lays her eggs and dies without setting foot outside.

Sex takes place in the nursery even in stoats. During the summer, males are combing the countryside not only for prey, but also for nests containing young virgin stoats. On finding one, the male forcibly insinuates her, even though she protests vigorously and may well be so young that her eyes are closed.

Bizarre though such behaviour appears, it is but one of the outcomes of the fierce pressures that males are under to mate in a hurry to ensure their genes live on. The females themselves may benefit because their sons will indulge in the same behaviour and successfully propagate their genes.
 
Poisonous semen

Fruit-flies provide the ultimate expression of warfare between sexes—the males, in attempting to control their mates chemically, poison them while the females search frantically for antidotes. The discovery came to light when it was noticed that highly promiscuous female flies were short-lived. This was due not to the undoubted strain of egg production, but to a surfeit of sex. Further investigation revealed that the seminal fluid was the culprit leading the females to an early grave. Semen is not just a medium for transporting sperm; it is a cocktail of secretions, some of which affect the female’s behaviour, usually to the male’s benefit…

Sex has become murder. Now, to enhance his chances of fathering offspring by advancing ovulation, the male fruit-fly produces seminal fluid so ‘strong’ that is toxic and prematurely poisons the female, but not before she has laid her eggs.
 
Suicidal sex

For the males of species in which the females are born killers, mating is a dangerous proposition. Having delivered their sperm, some males appear to make the supreme sacrifice—and end up as meals. And yet, such suicidal tactics make sense in the context of sperm wars, especially if the males are unlikely to have more than one stab at breeding. There is little point in a male escaping with his life if his paternity is not assured. If, by committing suicide during sex, he keeps his savage partner occupied while his, and not someone else’s, gametes seek hers, the sacrifice pays off.

One in the best-known dangerous liaisons is forged by male praying mantises… The male’s body is the ultimate nuptial gift, because by consuming her partner the female is able to produce significantly more eggs. She therefore benefits from her macabre habits, but so does he—he literally gives his all and, as a consequence, fathers offspring. Male spiders always face the risk of being devoured when they consummate their courtship, but male red-backs appear to be the only ones which positively commit suicide during sex…

Other remarkable strategies have evolved which illustrate the extremes to which males will go to give their own sperm the best chance of reaching the eggs first.

red-tailed-phascogaleIn Australia, male red-tailed phascogales—small, squirrel-like carnivores—burn themselves out in an all-or-nothing quest for fatherhood. These endearing little marsupials have a short but exhausting mating season during the southern spring, which leaves the males wrecked. They are intensely territorial and supremely competitive, chasing up and down trees and racing in and out of hollows searching for females. The female phascogales are extremely shy and make the males court them energetically before submitting to prolonged and vigorous sex.

So intent are the males on finding as many targets as possible for their precious sperm that they have no time to feed during their week of frenzied sexual activity. While the freshly impregnated females retire to their nests, the knackered males rapidly succumb to a combination of infections, failed livers, gut ulcers, extensive haemorrhages and extreme weight loss. These symptoms accompany the level of their blood cortico-steroids and a catastrophic suppression of their immunological system—characteristics of severe stress.

Not one adult male survives. But 50 per cent of the females’ babies will be males and by the following spring they will be mature enough to enter the lethal sexual arena.
 
One battle over, another looms

The egg is now fertilized—in a split second, a new life has been initiated. This has been achieved against astronomical odds. Both the sperm and its slave, the male body which produced it [Editor’s italics] and propelled it into the female’s tract, have had to be supreme players in the most rigorous and demanding contest on earth: survival. The male has relied on countless brawling ancestors, themselves winners endowed with the skills needed to overcome both physical dangers and cut-throat competition from rivals. His sperm has passed the female’s demanding tests for quality control. Of the billions that started the race, many were deformed, most simply got lost or died of exhaustion. Of the few the lashed their way to the egg, one was victorious.

On arriving at its destination, it began a complex sequence of chemical code-breaking whereby enzymes—special proteins—in the tip of its head unlocked the egg’s surface and allowed the sperm to enter its protoplasm. In a fraction of a second, a miraculous transformation took place in the composition of the cell, enabling the egg to shut out other sperms which subsequently attempted to pierce it. Once safely inside, the sperm cast off its tail, leaving only the head, packed with the male’s genes, his sole contribution to the new offspring.

The sheer complexity of what follows defies imagination. If there be miracles, then the defining moment of one was when the hereditary instructions of both male and female were collected in the fusion egg and sperm nuclei and a new life was conceived in a flurry of membranes and rapidly dividing cells. Although it takes place on a microscopic scale, this is the key event over which the sexes have been striving to exert control.

However, the share each parent has in this new individual is already unequal—the sperm donates only its genes to the relatively massive egg. For the time being, it seems, the male has got away with the smaller down payment. But now a fresh conflict looms—over the question of parental care. The mother would prefer to go on and produce more eggs, and the father to spread his sperm around more females. Nevertheless, conception does not end the ‘costs’ of reproduction for all creatures. For many, a great deal of effort will have to be explained on caring for their offspring. And who does that is very much decided by yet another dispute between the sexes.

Published in: on October 27, 2016 at 11:30 am  Comments (1)  
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War of the sexes, 3

Choosy females

Although females behave less dramatically than males, they have a very crucial hand to play in the mating game. They are not, as usually portrayed, passive recipients of male lust, but are naturally cautious and highly discriminating when deciding with which to copulate. From their point of view, all males are different and, as every female wants only the very best possible specimen to father her offspring, she plays for time while assessing the quality of what is on offer.

Females therefore go shopping for sex and males must market themselves like animated billboards to attract a customer. Lavish ornamentation often means quality, because mediocre males cannot afford the luxury of ‘expensive’ displays. By weighing up the choice of mates and choosing only the chirpiest or flashiest partners, females act as wildly imaginative artists, capable of ‘creating’, through sexual selection, males which are as breathtakingly gorgeous as they are bizarre…

Among the amphibians, male frogs woo by trilling or croaking. Male anolid lizards erect brightly coloured dewlaps, while fish tend to flourish decorative fins. Most mammals have keen noses and accordingly use seductive odours to meet up with the opposite sex. Some insects stridulate—make a chirping or scraping sound, like grasshoppers—for sex, whereas others deploy potent scent to lure mates. Emperor moths can home in from 3 kilometres (2 miles) away by following a plume of perfume which acts as both an irresistible attractant and an aphrodisiac to members of the opposite sex; in web-building spiders, the males strum a tattoo on the silken threads which their partners perceive through their feet. Fireflies emit flashes of light, certain diurnal butterflies reflect patterns of ultra-violet and electric fish communicate with each other in the murky waters where they live by discharging pulses of electrical energy. In some species, the males advertise for sex in such extravagant manner as to defy imagination—and all because they must catch the eye of a discerning female.

The blue peafowl is the largest and most spectacular of the true pheasants. In full courtship mode the male is, without a doubt, one of the wonders of nature and an eloquent testament to the creative force of sexual selection. He is nothing less than an ostentatious sexual advertisement, proclaiming with strident voice and ornate plumage that he is the best source of sperm…

But sex is not the end of this affair. Peahens are remarkably possessive of the peacock with which they have mated and, although they need to be inseminated only once to have their eggs fertilized, each female tries to monopolize his attentions by being aggressive to other hens or by actively soliciting further copulations from the male if he starts to court another. By exhausting the male’s supply of sperm, the peahen attempts to prevent him passing on his desirable characteristics to the offspring of other peahens, which will inevitable compete with her own.
 
Bridal bowers

Some of the most extraordinary birds to be seen in Australia and New Guinea are the dozen or so bowerbirds which rate as the landscape artists of the avian world. The fact that most native mammalian predators in Australasia are nocturnal makes it possible for the males to spend the days displaying on courts close to or on the ground, which they meticulously prepare for the purpose of sex and seduction. As they eschew parental duties and the forest provides plenty of easily obtained food, the males are able to dedicate much of their year to building and decorating their bowers.

The hens behave like connoisseurs of art, awarding their sexual favours to the owners whose works impress the most. Depending upon the species, the male bowerbirds build structures ranging from the simple avenues of twigs—like the dazzling yellow and black regent bowerbird’s—to more elaborate ones which the owners embellish with all manner of bright objects; the cock satin bowerbird even daubs the walls of his bower with ‘paint’ derived from strongly coloured berries crushed in his break.

chapter-bBut there are as nothing compared to the achievements of three gardener bowerbirds—Macgregor’s, the striped and the Vogelkop—which practise their art deep in the forests of New Guinea. These mostly brown birds, the size of a starling, are master builders, constructing out of interlocking twigs maypole-like towers up to 3 metres (10 feet) in height, and huts resembling tepees supported by internal columns with passageways connecting inner chambers. Furthermore, The birds landscape their buildings with carefully tended forecourts on which all kinds of eye-catching treasures are displayed. In the case of Macgregor’s bowerbirds, and possibly the others, decorative fruit is brought into the bower and the cache doubles up as a snack bar, allowing the cock bird to spend more time on site advertising for hens.

Although they all construct amazing bowers, Vogelkop bowerbirds—from the mountains of the western tip of Irian Jaya—produce the most extravagant exhibitions of landscape art. The male’s arena is 5-6 metres (16-20 feet) across, with his astonishing bower in the centre. This is constructed around a sapling and is completely covered in by a thatched roof which is supported internally by several pillars.

In front of the entrance is the garden, on which is meticulously arranged a variety of pretty or conspicuous objects gathered from the surrounding forest—a number of faded yellow leaves laid out in a pattern, a heap of brightly coloured berries, the iridescent wing-cases of a certain kind of beetle and fresh flowers which are changed daily before they wilt. The industry involved in maintaining such an arena must be phenomenal and yet the investment will be well worth while if the hens are impressed and allow the male to father their next broods.
 
Dazzling duets

Scientists working in the sweltering forests of Costa Rica claim to have discovered that female long-tailed manakins may be the fussiest females in the animal kingdom. Cock long-tailed manakins are forced to be really high-pressure salesmen; they will be chosen to mate on the basis of how well they sing in tune, shine on the dance floor and excel themselves in an extraordinary test of stamina.

These sparrow-sized birds belong to a family of forty or so exotic species which are confined mostly to South America. Second only to the incomparable humming-birds, male manakins are dazzling feathered jewels, their plumage sparkling with sky blues, brilliant reds and yellows set against the deepest velvet black. Some of their wing and tail feathers are modified for producing a variety of instrumental sounds which supplement the curious vocalizations the male utters to draw the attention of the hens.

The courtship displays are nothing short of virtuoso performances, choreographed into series of pivoting movements, mincing steps, jumps, somersaults and butterfly flights. Although the details vary from species to species, the acrobatic displays of the manakins rival those of any bird of paradise and are equally difficult to observe because they take place either in the forest canopy pr in deep cover near ground level…

Once she has made her choice, the top male signals his junior partner to make himself scarce. He then performs a solo dance in front of his admirer and then, in a flash, mounts and inseminates her. The reward for the junior male may come later—he may inherit the stage when the more experienced bird dies or vanishes, but he may have a long time to wait, because long-tailed manakins live for about fifteen years.

Almost all the hen manakins end up mating with but a handful of males. In one area with about eighty cocks, just five of them accounted for over 90 per cent of the matings over a course of ten years. So it pays to be a senior male manakins in a top performing team because such a bird is likely to be chosen by as many as fifty or sixty hens a year.

However, the cost of that achievement is considerable. It has been estimated that during his apprenticeship as a junior partner, a male will utter about 3 million ‘to-le-do’ calls and spend about 1000 hours perfecting his cartwheel routine before standing a chance of graduating to the status of a senior male.

Published in: on October 26, 2016 at 11:36 am  Comments (1)  
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War of the sexes, 2

Warriors and wimps

The recurring theme of this book is that the opportunities created by sex differ from males and females. The reason of this asymmetry lies in the nature of their respective sex cells—sperm and eggs. Sperm are minuscule, biologically ‘cheap’ to manufacture, and are produced by the testes in astronomical numbers. Eggs, on the other hand, are comparatively large—small humming-birds, for instance, make eggs equivalent to 25 per cent of their body weight and packed with nutrients. Being ‘expensive’ to make, they are produced in much smaller numbers that sperm.

The consequences for the two sexes are profound. With a more or less fixed output of eggs, females cannot usually generate more offspring by taking on extra mating partners. The best option is to be careful in their choice of who fathers the young. Males have quite a different agenda. With almost unlimited supply of sperm at their disposal, the best reproductive strategy is to mate with as many females as possible, each of which will provide them with offspring.

From a male’s perspective, there are never enough females to go around and so, motivated by lust and sheer greed, each of them comes into serious competition with other philanderers. To be successful in the mating stakes, a male needs to win and win well. This rivalry manifests itself as raw aggression among the sturdy males of those species for which ‘biggest is best’. To be triumphant in battle, a male has to look like a warrior, act like a warrior—and mean it!

Competition for sex is the overriding evolutionary pressure responsible for fashioning the appearance of mature males, whether they be chest-thumping gorillas or heavily veiled fighting fish. This is because, in the struggle for supremacy, weapons and large body size have been overwhelmingly advantageous, enabling hefty, well-armed males to win more mates than feeble and less bold ones.

Over countless generations, macho males driven by their gonads have been willing to risk life and limb in order to rank among the most bountiful breeders of their kind. Such a valuable prize is always worth fighting for, and only the most pugilistic individuals stand a chance of winning—which is why the males of many species are larger and more irascible than their mates. To help them in their battle against rivals, warrior males throughout the animal kingdom have often become heavyweights, equipped with weapons enabling them to stab, ram, kick or wrestle. For those who compete for harems, the reward for being a successful male is proportionately high, and so the conflicts become that much more serious.

When a pair of bull elephant seals clash on the breeding beaches, no quarter is given. Each is a warrior fighting for the survival of his line. By far the largest of the seals, each bellowing bull is a quivering mound of flesh and blubber 6 metres (20 ft) long and weighting 3000 kilograms (6600 pounds)—five times the weight of a mature female… The combatants often tear their noses and gouge out chunks of their opponents’ skin. There is a lot at stake, and well-matched rivals do not give up easily. But inevitably, one of them backs off and awaits a further opportunity to challenge the beachmaster…

The odds are heavily stacked against the males. Fewer than one in ten become successful warriors commandeering their own stretches of the beach favoured by the females; the rest will die without issue or resort to sneaking a furtive mating here and there. Competition between the lusty males is therefore intense, and success will favour only the heaviest and most belligerent of them…
 
Horns and antlers

The most spectacular horns and antlers adorn the heads of the hoofed mammals. They come in an amazing array of shapes and sizes, resembling corkscrews, rapiers, daggers and meat hooks; some are tightly spiralled, others extravagantly branched. In many cases, the females are hornless…

Ibex, big-horn sheep, goats and musk oxen perform serious battering contests in which the opponents gallop towards each other and meet head on; it is a wonder that any participant survives such head-shattering impacts. The secret of their survival lies in the construction of their skulls…

Males of all kind have become embroiled in an arms race favouring those which can grow and deploy bigger weapons. The extinct Irish elk was one such species: the older stags sported a might spread of antlers that would dwarf those of modern deer. Like those of today’s warriors, such weapons are costly to grow—especially those of deer, which have to be regrown every year—and the individual has to be a very competent forager to find enough food to be able to ‘afford’ and replace them annually.

Stags sometimes sustain smashed antlers or broken legs, or are blinded in one eye. In one population, battles over rutting supremacy accounted for 20 per cent of all adult male mortality and in Germany 5 per cent of stags are killed every year through fighting. Some 10 per cent of bull musk oxen die from fractured skulls, despite the reinforced nature of their foreheads, and no less that 60 per cent of narwhals sport broken tusks or have pieces or twisted ivory buried into their flesh—doubtless all wounds uncured through fighting.
 
Sneaky males

The problem for most males is that they must often wait on the side-lines, sometimes for years, until they are in a position to challenge the dominant breeders—and then most will fail. In the interim, they resort to sneaky tactics. In southern fur seals, the beachmaster are typical warriors and each stakes out a territory which it defends violently from other males, creating the most vicious fights in the animal world.

The bulls aim for the vulnerable soft skin around the fore flippers, ripping huge gashes in them with their teeth. The combatants sometimes end up with horrific injuries, such as torn muzzles, dislocated jaws, missing eyes and great chunks bitten out of their pelts. At this time, the bulls appear to be immune from pain; those which have commandeered prime positions on the beach rarely stand down and they valiantly stave off challenges from neighbouring males. Many pups are crushed in the resulting mayhem on the crowded rookeries…

Several major lakes nestle in Africa’s Great Rift Valley. There are algal scrapers, leaf choppers, scale eaters, shell crushers, diggers, hunters and plankton filterers; there is even one species that survives by biting out the eyes of other fish. Many are colourful and have remarkable breeding arrangements; in Lake Tanganyika, fifteen kinds employ empty water-snail shells as receptacles for their eggs, although one, called Lamprolugus callipterus, is especially interesting. This shell-brooding cichlid holds the record of proportionately the largest males in the animal kingdom. The fully grown ones are giants, up to thirty times the size of their mates; in human terms, this is equivalent to the difference between a 80 kilogram (180-pound) man and the average newborn baby. There is a good reason for this disparity between the sexes…
 
Gender jumpers

So the warriors and dandies of the natural world may gain mates through brute force or low cunning. But so relentless is the drive to carry on their genetic line that the males of some species have evolved other quite astonishing ploys to maximize their breeding potential. One surpassing technique is gender jumping…

Aggression plays a key role in the life of a gender-jumping wrasse. Each territory contains a tyrannical male which firmly dominates his harem of six or more mates. Only by continually demonstrating his command over them can he prevent one of them from changing sex and usurping his position of power. When young, the small wrasse join the harems as spawning females at the bottom of the packing order and, bearing the brunt of everyone’s hostility, their masculine tendencies are suppressed. But as they grow, each has the potential to be a male. The chance to switch sex and status comes with the death of the despotic male. Within and hour or two of his disappearance, the largest and most dominant female becomes aggressive and starts to behave like the departed ‘master’, chivvying the rest of the females and defending the area against neighbouring males. Should one of them beat her into submission, her transformation will be halted. If not, within about ten days or so, ‘she’ will be irrevocably changed to a fully functioning ‘he’ and produce active sperm.

chapter-a Big and brawny, that’s the female anemone fish (left). The wimpish male just supplies sperm. When she dies, he grows, jumps gender, and lays eggs.

 
 

Small is sexy

In the vertebrates and the insects, extreme sexual dimorphism—huge differences between the two sexes—has come about because the males have evolved into weapon-bearing warriors designed for acquiring harems. However, in species in which males have opted for dedicated monogamy, the females are usually the larger sex; in some cases, the males are miniaturized. ‘Dwarf’ males are found in a variety of flatworms, nematodes, crustaceans and molluscs. In the oyster Ostrea pulchrana, the large females host the small males on their shells and may even retard their growth through some chemical influence.

Charles Darwin was aware of degenerate males when he studied barnacles… Some barnacles are parasites, bearing little resemblance to crustaceans, and with separate sexes. The vanishingly small males enter their mates as free-swimming larvae and settle inside their partners’ tissues, resembling alien parasites themselves!

In some species, once the tiny male has made contact with his mate, he bonds with her for life. His body merges with hers, even sharing her blood supply, because once the male is in situ he depends utterly upon his ogreish mate for nourishment. In the end, the male is reduced to a fleshy appendage, a blob of testis under the complete control of the gravid female.

Published in: on October 25, 2016 at 6:52 pm  Comments (1)  
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War of the sexes, 1

John Sparks studied animal behavior with Desmond Morris at the Zoological Society of London. I will be adding excerpts of each chapter of Sparks’ Battle of the sexes (1999). But the introduction of his book I’ll quote complete:
 
john-sparks

Every living creature has an overwhelming urge to breed. This is not simply a trivial expression of bestial lust, but a fundamental characteristic of life, the fulfilment of which determines whether an animal is a success or a failure. ‘Succeeding’, in evolutionary terms, means nothing more nor less than leaving offspring who will survive long enough to carry on the parents’ line. Anything less means the extinction of their own genetic heritage. Each individual therefore strives to populate the planet with its own descendants at the expense of those of its rivals. And in order to do so, each and every one of them attempts to attain reproductive supremacy by means of the sexual process.

The nature of sex is widely misunderstood, a matter of which this book will attempt to rectify. The human ideal of sex is that it is the romantic outcome of love and leads the participants into a long-term alliance, enabling them to produce and rear children—an arrangement that is all too often shattered in the divorce courts. And yet a wealth of observation on how animals conduct their private lives shows that, in the wild, sexual skulduggery and infidelity are much more the norm than the exception. Sex does not and never did encourage sharing and caring.

On the contrary, as the story which unfolds in the next six chapters reveals, it compels the participants to engage in civil war at all stages of their lives. Although mates consent to donate eggs and sperm towards the creation of new life, on almost every other issue—the choice and number of partners, the size of the families and who is going to look after them—males and females are far from agreement. Even when the sexes appear to co-operate, powerful forces of self-interest are at work. The relationship between the genders is constantly rife with tension and mistrust. Why should this be so?

Ideally, every individual, whether male or female, would like to mix and match its genes with the best of its kind to create the healthiest and sturdiest offspring—a recipe for their survival. This aspiration involves females in a quest to find the perfect sexual partner—perhaps the most elegant dancer, the most accomplished hunter or simply the biggest and most belligerent male. Once she has found him, she may resort to various forms of subterfuge in order to keep him—and his genes—to herself. Males, on the other hand, generally try to give themselves the best chance in the reproductive stakes by mating with as many females as possible.

In addition to this basic conflict of interest, the problem is that someone else always seems to have the best mate. Of course, there is no such thing as a faultless female or an impeccable male; however, when animals are set on breeding, they frequently appear to behave as though they have settled for second-best while continuing to keep their options open—in other words they divorce, swap partners and have affairs. Throughout the animal kingdom, males have inherently roving eyes, are ever ready to cheat on their partners and are accordingly paranoid about being cuckolded themselves. Females are also open to offers from males more desirable than the ones with whom they have paired up, and they use infidelity as a weapon in the battle of the sexes. All this sexual skulduggery leads to discord, as animals of every kind strive to ensure the survival of as many of their genes as possible.

The very concept of sex also calls for explanations. Intercourse is mechanically cumbersome and does not necessarily result in a net increase in numbers. Budding or cloning would seem, at first glance, to be much more effective ways of propagation. Without a doubt, sex in its various manifestations involves the expenditure of huge amounts of energy. For some animals, it shortens life expectancy; it is sometimes even lethal, usually for males but occasionally for females as well. So why do it? We shall look at some of the possible answers to these questions in Chapter 6.

Sex and foraging are two fundamental characteristics of animal life, and are often the only ones which draw creatures out into the open. Sex especially demands very public behaviour among many species. Males and females need to find each other, repel rivals, court, make the sexual connection and provide for their young. However, in talking such a high profile, they face the danger of being haunted or sexually cheated.

Individual species have inevitably evolved their own strategies for dealing with these risks, and these strategies have fashioned the dazzling array of individual species who share our planet. For all of them, sex is a continuing battle.

Published in: on October 25, 2016 at 11:00 am  Comments (1)  
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War of the sexes, 0

On the first of January I wrote: “From this post henceforth I’ll add further entries only if I see big events in the news, more spectacular events than the Jihad attacks in Paris and San Bernardino last year.” I indeed added posts about Brexit and the Orlando massacre, but deleted them because they were not the turning point events I originally suspected they would be. Conversely, Hillary Clinton’s candidacy for the presidency of the United States is no small thing.

Whether or not she wins the fact is that Donald Trump has had to fight not only against the Democratic Party but also against his own Republican Party; the globalist corporations (who donate overwhelmingly to the Democrats), the mainstream media led by the tribe who hates the Aryans and even the US Department of Justice.

hillary-clinton-devil-sign

Independently of who wins in such a rigged system against Trump, the drama that is unfolding before our eyes is spectacular enough for me to settle accounts with a zeitgeist that has not only empowered a Negro as Commander in Chief of the most powerful military nation, but has no problem now to empower a Bitch, even against the law (the FBI has unashamedly covered up her crimes).
 
A Witch in the White House?

In my January post I said that, with the exception of Andrew Anglin, most white nationalists apparently have no problem with feminism. It is high time to analyze it. Feminism is another ingredient of the witches’ brew that is killing whites around the globe (for the explanation of the “brew” metaphor see the first comment in the comments section).

In the following entries I’ll be quoting from two disparate sources. The first one is a text of a BBC series, Battle of the Sexes in the Animal World, which uses very elegant language. After the scientific basis to understand animal sexuality has thus been exposed, I will quote extensively from the YouTube blogger Turd Flinging Monkey, whom I’ll refer simply as “the blogger”. This man has one of the most radical voices of the MGTOW movement (Men Going Their Own Way). Unlike the BBC videos, he uses crude language and even profanities.

It will take many entries until our point is sufficiently elaborated: why I believe that feminism is just another ingredient of the witches’ brew. For those who don’t want to follow us throughout the whole series, see my excerpts of what Arthur Schopenhauer wrote about women.

I’ll leave this “number zero” entry of my War of the sexes series as a sticky post until the November 8 election: an election that the powers that be are aligned against the male.