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Tuesday 7th May - 4.00 pm

Mineralogy seminar room

 

Another point of view on sexual selection in prehistoric animals


Dr Rob Knell, Senior Lecturer at Queen Mary University of London. r.knell@qmul.ac.uk

 

Sexual selection is one of the most important driving forces in evolution and is responsible for a tremendous amount of the morphological diversity that we see today. Many of the most charismatic prehistoric animals also appear to carry traits that could be explained as the result of sexual selection: horns, crests, plates, sails and many others. Nonetheless, palaeontologists have traditionally avoided using sexual selection as an explanation for these features and have preferred mechanical, thermoregulatory or species-recognition based interpretations, probably because it is very hard to produce testable hypotheses about the behavioural significance of such traits when we are unable to observe an animal's behaviour. This conservative approach is likely to lead to a significant degree of misinterpretation - sexual selection is a ubiquitous and powerful force and there is no reason to discount it as an explanation for morphological diversity in the fossil record. I will examine the problem of how we can detect sexual selection in the fossil record and discuss issues such as sexual dimorphism, allometry and how it changes with sexual maturity, apparent cost and diversity as potentially helpful indicators of sexually selected features in extinct animals.

 

 

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