Social Selection and the Evolution of Ornaments [video]

February 28, 2014

The differences between the sexes have inspired and mystified people for millennia. In many animals (particularly many birds), males are larger and more colorful, and some have “ornaments” that verge on the outrageous: a peacock’s tail, an elk’s antlers, a cardinal’s blindingly red plumage. But it’s not always the case—in many species there’s little difference between males and females, and in some species the roles are reversed.

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Understanding these differences has captivated generations of scientists going back before Charles Darwin. In a seminar at the Cornell Lab, Joseph Tobias of Oxford University gave a presentation about current thinking on the topic, including the fairly new idea of “social selection” as an alternative to, or expansion of, the long-standing idea of “sexual selection.”

Tobias’s talk took place on Feb. 20, 2014. It was a special Thursday addition to our long-running Monday Night Seminar series, a long-standing tradition established decades ago by Lab founder Dr. Arthur Allen. If you enjoyed this seminar, check this page for our list of future speakers—we’ll note which upcoming talks will be livestreamed—or come visit us in person! If you missed any talks, please see our index of archived livestreamed seminars.