It matched! Conquest in the animal world

When it comes to conquest, animals invest everything they have to be chosen. For the most part, it’s the males who need to make the effort and the females are responsible for choosing.

Have you ever wondered how animal couples choose each other in the wild? There are so many options, right?! Who will take the initiative at the time of conquest?

You know that “love at first sight” story? In the animal world she is real! The physical attributes count for a lot of points at the time of conquest and, most of the time, the females are the ones who define whether it will happen or not !

This choice can happen in two scenarios: in the first, the female chooses the male based on physical characteristics , the strongest, the most colorful, the one with the loudest corner, the biggest horn.

In the second, she gets the winner of a dispute between males that are in the same reproductive site [3].

In the latter case, the dispute is fierce and there is a fight, because, in general, the proportion of males is greater than that of females.

But, it is worth remembering that there are some social groups in which females are in greater numbers (the case of lionesses) and fights between males happen for dominance within the group, to maintain the hierarchy. 

In the case of lions, the winner is the one who mates with all the females . ( He keeps finding himself right?! ) For that, they use their weapons to win this war. It’s frills, fuss and screaming!

But wait, at the time of conquest, why do the females choose?

GIF: Group of lionesses walking.
Reproduction costs much more for females than for males. This energy expenditure involves the production of eggs (which are larger gametes), the gestation and nutrition of the offspring, which requires full functioning of the body.

While males are generally responsible for producing sperm, which are smaller gametes and less costly to the individual [3]. 

In this logic, those who dedicate themselves more are more valuable in the reproductive cycle, and, therefore, have the right to choose their partner, and in this way, males fit into the position of being chosen [1].

Therefore, the good match for a given female and who will excel in conquest is the one who has the best genetic qualities (through ornaments, dances or courtship) or the one who wins a battle .

Genetic qualities guarantee a successful offspring!

For the female, ornaments such as horns, tails, bright colors, and other structures serve as an indication of the male’s good health. They may indicate that the male has “good genes” that deserve to be passed on to the next generations.

Even if the individual that has the most striking features is a perfect dish for a supposed predator, decreasing its chance of survival, females still choose it. 

And then, you must be thinking: but guys, what’s going on in this woman’s head?

 In this situation, the concern is with the reproduction and guarantee of puppies that will also be sexually attractive by inheriting this “charm”, healthier and stronger. Thus, ensuring that they will be chosen by females when they are in the reproductive phase.

The female understands that if that male risked his own life by carrying that trait, he really is a strong partner and will pass this quality on to the offspring, and therefore it is worth mating with him.                                                                                                                                

And how does evolution explain this?

The theory of natural selection, proposed by Darwin, tells us that nature tends to select individuals that have characteristics that increase their ability to adapt to the environment, that is, that will have greater chances of survival and reproduction.

In this way, the individuals that survive pass these traits on to the next generations. However, some characteristics do the opposite – they act by reducing the chance of survival and this, natural selection could not explain.

For this, Darwin developed the concept of sexual selection , which would be a special case of natural selection, which consists of the advantage that an individual has over individuals of the same sex in relation to reproduction.

Generally, structures that confer these advantages are exclusively in males, precisely to be used in competition or attraction of mates.

The peacocks’ dance of conquest

A case often used to understand this well is that of peacocks. Think with me: how could a tail that size be used to fight? Darwin suggested that the tail actually exists because females prefer to mate with males who have longer, shinier tails.

To attract females, he opens his tail and shakes his feathers, looking like a dance. This explains that the reduced survival of peacocks by having long and flashy tails, is compensated by their great reproductive advantage.

In this way, males that have these characteristics were evolutionarily selected and, in a way, ensured the perpetuation of this genetic quality over the years.

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