"Females are coy and males are ardent.". This is a simple quote taken from Darwin in The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex. This scientific theory really helped solidify the myth that males are promiscuous and females are naturally monogamous. However, Darwin’s theory has constantly been debunked as we've gained more knowledge of the wonderful world of sexual selection!
I've spoken a lot about sex recently (it's just so damn interesting) and this folds onto my previous ramblings. In the wild, promiscuity is rife and this sexual prowess was originally thought to be a pivotal function of fuelling evolution. This is because promiscuity intensifies sexual selection, an evolutionary process whereby individuals develop traits that help them get more ladies and offspring (think of a stags’ antlers and male peacocks’ tails). Sexual selection should speed up genetic exchange and form new species (call speciation). Just on a side note, this idea of sexual selection is very male-centric. When females are promiscuous, sexual selection gets even more interesting! If a female mates with different males in rapid succession then the sperm of those males compete for the female’s eggs. This folds back to the sperm competition theory I have previously mentioned. This is one of the reasons that the males of many species have evolved to produce large numbers of sperm: they’re tickets in the fertilisation raffle.
However, a new study on shorebirds indicates the opposite to the modern day understanding that promiscuity fuels evolution. They found that in shorebirds, there are more subspecies amoung monogamous species than promiscuous species. They believe that this phenomenon comes from the shorebirds genetic exchange was being pooled in a certain area due the monogamous lifestyle. This allows these genetically isolated populations to evolution to become unique and form a new species (or subspecies). This is one of the first studies that identifies the opposite to what modern science currently thinks and I think that’s fascinating enough to share!