February 19, 2010 | Leave a Comment
Running some more riffs off of yesterday’s conjectures regarding the particular hypothetical dynamics that I’ve been exploring in human evolution, are there species that tend to cluster (1) sexual selection with females picking males for particular qualities (dance, song, plumage, etc.) and (2) females assigning relatively large amounts of attention to the young? If so, males can be chosen for their neotenous features, features females would be attracted to in their young, which might result in relatively larger brains, more cooperative behavior, more tendencies to play, more creativity.
This could veer off in two directions. If the female is picking males for those features that demand higher testosterone levels (bright red plumage), the male will not likely be displaying neotenous tendencies and would not likely be helping in the raising of the kids (though this would depend on seasonal variations in hormone levels). Yet, if the female is picking males that are challenged to behave with some creativity, or at least species-related novel behavior, to get the females’ attention, the male may end up evolving in ways that suggest how the human species has evolved.
I’m thinking that those predators that hunt in cooperative packs might as a trend display larger brains, exhibit relative creativity in display when seeking mates, be more playful as adults and be more or less well disposed toward caring for the kids. Chimpanzees hunt in several male units, as do dogs. Both are tolerant of little ones, at least not usually engaging in infanticide.
I know too little about these things to have ready information that sorts into this idea. I expect that’s why I write almost exclusively about humans. Humans I can observe.
Regarding primates, Knight wrote, “The variations and permutations are numerous, but the basic result is that females arrange themselves across the landscape in characteristic patterns – grouped or isolated, fast-moving or slow, in trees or on the ground – and the males in pursuing their sexual goals adopt strategies which take account of the situation which the females have defined.” (Chris Knight, Blood Relations (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1991), p. 133.)
With female behavior often informing social structure founded on how both sexes hunt or forage in the context of the location and availability of what is required for sustenance, and the resulting social structure often delegating the hormonal constellations of a particular species, there seems to be a not so subtle relationship described as follows: Environment > nourishment procurement strategies > social structure > male/female relative hormonal constellations > evolutionary trajectories (changes in hormones adjust ontogeny, changing the species over time). This looks to me like a paradigm description of how evolution can occur, a variation of what I’ve been playing with as relates to humans.
Postulate 23: The Orchestral Theory of Evolution is the study of the rates and timing of maturation, with testosterone levels impacting rate and estrogen levels controlling timing, with those environmental or social structure adjustments that influence levels of testosterone and estrogen determining the speed, timing, features and direction of evolution. I’ve not been considering much the hypothesis outside of humans, but it seems, at least among some species, that this paradigm may be in play.
There is this sense that the environment informs social structure that can then invest the female with powers to compel evolution in interesting directions based upon her ability to encourage neoteny or acceleration. My head is spinning. It’s feeling like a whole new area is opening up with clear influence trajectories or interlocking cause and effect relationships suggesting how evolution unfolds.
Social structure and the environmental effects upon social structure feel central to how species change cascades across an ecosystem.