The Evolution of Beauty: How Darwin's Forgotten Theory of Mate Choice Shapes the Animal World - and Us

The Evolution of Beauty: How Darwin's Forgotten Theory of Mate Choice Shapes the Animal World - and Us

by Richard O. Prum

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Overview

NAMED A BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR BY THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEWSMITHSONIAN, AND WALL STREET JOURNAL

A major reimagining of how evolutionary forces work, revealing how mating preferences—what Darwin termed "the taste for the beautiful"—create the extraordinary range of ornament in the animal world.


In the great halls of science, dogma holds that Darwin's theory of natural selection explains every branch on the tree of life: which species thrive, which wither away to extinction, and what features each evolves. But can adaptation by natural selection really account for everything we see in nature?
     Yale University ornithologist Richard Prum—reviving Darwin's own views—thinks not. Deep in tropical jungles around the world are birds with a dizzying array of appearances and mating displays: Club-winged Manakins who sing with their wings, Great Argus Pheasants who dazzle prospective mates with a four-foot-wide cone of feathers covered in golden 3D spheres, Red-capped Manakins who moonwalk. In thirty years of fieldwork, Prum has seen numerous display traits that seem disconnected from, if not outright contrary to, selection for individual survival. To explain this, he dusts off Darwin's long-neglected theory of sexual selection in which the act of choosing a mate for purely aesthetic reasons—for the mere pleasure of it—is an independent engine of evolutionary change.
    Mate choice can drive ornamental traits from the constraints of adaptive evolution, allowing them to grow ever more elaborate. It also sets the stakes for sexual conflict, in which the sexual autonomy of the female evolves in response to male sexual control. Most crucially, this framework provides important insights into the evolution of human sexuality, particularly the ways in which female preferences have changed male bodies, and even maleness itself, through evolutionary time.
     The Evolution of Beauty presents a unique scientific vision for how nature's splendor contributes to a more complete understanding of evolution and of ourselves.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780345804570
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 04/03/2018
Pages: 448
Sales rank: 167,088
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.99(h) x 0.92(d)

About the Author

RICHARD O. PRUM is William Robertson Coe Professor of Ornithology at Yale University, and Head Curator of Vertebrate Zoology at the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History. He has conducted field work throughout the world, and has studied fossil theropod dinosaurs in China. He received a MacArthur Fellowship in 2010.

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CHAPTER 3
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Excerpted from "The Evolution of Beauty"
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Copyright © 2018 Richard O. Prum.
Excerpted by permission of Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.
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Table of Contents

Introduction 1

Chapter 1 Darwin's Really Dangerous Idea 17

Chapter 2 Beauty Happens 54

Chapter 3 Manakin Dances 89

Chapter 4 Aesthetic Innovation and Decadence 121

Chapter 5 Make Way for Duck Sex 149

Chapter 6 Beauty from the Beast 182

Chapter 7 Bromance Before Romance 206

Chapter 8 Human Beauty Happens Too 226

Chapter 9 Pleasure Happens 263

Chapter 10 The Lysistrata Effect 280

Chapter 11 The Queering of Homo sapiens 303

Chapter 12 This Aesthetic View of Life 320

Acknowledgments 343

Notes 347

Bibliography 387

Index 405

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