Darwin-L Message Log 8:48 (April 1994)

Academic Discussion on the History and Theory of the Historical Sciences

This is one message from the Archives of Darwin-L (1993–1997), a professional discussion group on the history and theory of the historical sciences.

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<8:48>From ALVARD@DICKINSON.EDU  Fri Apr 15 12:58:05 1994

Date: Fri, 15 Apr 94 12:56:57 est
From: Michael Alvard <ALVARD@dickinson.edu>
To: DARWIN-L@ukanaix.cc.ukans.edu
Subject: mating

In regard to the discussion of male mate preferences:    It is true that
males in general should prefer young females over old because young females
are in general more "fertile".  But the issue is more complex than this.
Among humans, males can be playing a number of different strategies,
sometimes simultaneously, and optimal mate choice is expected to vary
accordingly.  If choosing a life-long partner (wife), males are expected to
choose females based on their reproductive value, which is the average number
of offspring that remain to be born to a female of age x..   Reproductive
value varies according to population but generally is maximum at some age
just after puberty.    If a male is playing , an opportunistic mating
strategy and seeks short term mating opportunities, he should choose females
that will maximize the probability that this one copulation will result in a
conception, i.e., female fertility rather than reproductive value should
guide the male's decisions. Fertility is the average number of offspring
produced at each particular age. The fertility curve and reproductive value
curve are not equivalent. Female fertility maxes later in age than does
reproductive value.  Thus, all other things being equal,  the prediction is
that males looking for a "one night stand" should prefer older females, while
males looking for wives should prefer younger women

In this context it is not contrary that a male chimp  rejects an adolescent
female's solicitation.  While she may be higher reproductive value,
adolescents are less fertile compared to a mature and tested female.

Michael Alvard, Ph.D.			Tel: (717) 245-1902
Department of Anthropology			FAX: (717) 245-1479
Dickinson College				E-mail: Alvard@Dickinson.edu
Carlisle, PA  17013

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