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date: 27 October 2021

p. 11. Darwin’s other big idealocked

p. 11. Darwin’s other big idealocked

  • Leigh W. Simmons


The idea that males and females often look, sound, smell, and behave differently is uncontroversial. Where those differences came from, however, and what role they play in various species—including humans—is not. ‘Darwin’s other big idea’ outlines Charles Darwin’s sexual selection theory: differential reproduction based on sexual competition, whether between the members of one sex for access to the other, or by selection of particular mating partners. Differences in reproductive parts directly involved in sperm or egg production—primary sexual characteristics—were relatively easy to explain. The other kinds of sexual differences, he proposed, could evolve in one of two ways: male–male competition resulting in weapons, or female choice resulting in ornaments, but this was highly controversial.

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