According to Darwin, the female of the species could guide evolution by favouring the aesthetically blessed and harshly casting aside the not-so-fortunate. If generations of women have been making these choices, surely the world would be full of good-looking men yet, unfortunately, it most definitely isn’t. This disappointing situation is an example of the ‘lek paradox’. Why are there still good and bad looking men, if females have consistently been choosing the best looking? One possibility is that the difference is not genetic, yet all the available evidence suggests otherwise (backed up by breeding experiments in non-human species).
Professor Marion Petrie and Dr Gilbert Roberts at Newcastle University provide another explanation for this paradox in their paper in the April issue of Heredity. The authors, using computer simulations, show that female choice can in fact lead to bursts of mutation affecting male attributes. The elevated mutation would throw up even more attractive males, sadly mutation is a blind and random process, so at the same time it produces the less attractive as well.
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