This leads to the concept of sexual selection, where the evolutionary demands on the male may be different than those on the female, leading to different behaviours and appearances. There are often said to be two main driving forces behind such sexual selection. The first is the need for males to compete with one another for access to females, resulting in larger, more heavily built males, often with natural weapons of some kind, such as horns or tusks. The second is driven by the females, when they choose a mate based on some particular feature, leading the males to emphasise that feature in response. (This is, perhaps, most obvious in birds).
Sunday, 25 April 2021
Sunday, 18 April 2021
Sunday, 11 April 2021
|Titanotaria, a tuskless walrus|
There are a number of features of walruses that make it clear, from a modern perspective, that this was the right decision to make. But the most obvious is surely that they have huge tusks. These are in many ways a remarkable feature, and while other animals, such as elephants, also have large tusks, none that's alive today has anything quite like those of the walrus.
Walruses have a long evolutionary history, having been distinct from their closest living relatives for many millions of years. Nonetheless, those relatives are, as we might expect, the seals and sea lions and it's apparent that they entered the water long before growing the tusks. Which, in turn, means that the first walruses must have been tuskless. So when and how did this change?
Sunday, 4 April 2021
Of course, while I say 'basic', this isn't necessarily all that simple to do in practice. You need to capture the animals, ensuring that they aren't overly stressed by the experience so that they modify their behaviour after the fact, and then you do need to spend a lot of time collating all the date, likely over the course of several months. Still, we do have many such studies for most well-known mammals. Some groups, however, have been comparatively overlooked.