If you’ve ever wondered why the world hasn’t yet discovered a way for women to self-reproduce, eliminating men forever and becoming the feminist paradise that every men’s rights activist fears (but is also kind of secretly excited by, am I right?), science now has a reason. Simmer down, dudes, you’re not going anywhere.
Reuters reports that the mystery of why men exist in the face of evolution is a puzzle that’s stumped many scientists. If we were just breeding for efficiency, according to Reuters, men would have already possibly been bred out of existence, with the world’s population doing fine (if not being overwhelmed). Scientists have discovered, however, that reproduction isn’t just about efficiency; males, aside from providing sperm, help ward off disease and keep the species from facing extinction, through a process called “sexual selection.”
But in research published in the journal Nature on Monday, they found that sexual selection, in which males compete to be chose by females for reproduction, improves the gene pool and boosts population health, helping explain why males are important.
An absence of selection — when there is no sex, or no need to compete for it — leaves populations weaker genetically, making them more vulnerable to dying out.
“Competition among males for reproduction provides a really important benefit, because it improves the genetic health of populations,” said professor Matt Gage, who led the work at Britain’s University of East Anglia.
“Sexual selection achieves this by acting as a filter to remove harmful genetic mutations, helping populations to flourish and avoid extinction in the long-term.”
According to Gage, who studied the reproductive habits of beetles for 10 years, asexual beings who could self-reproduce would be a more efficient use of reproductive energy. As it stands now, because only daughters can reproduce, having sons doesn’t make much evolutionary sense. “Why should any species waste all that effort on sons?” he said. But Gage found something interesting in his studies of beetles.
Gage’s study, which evolved several different populations of beetles, found that sexual selection was a huge determinant of whether the population remained fit for survival or ended up like european royalty.
The strength of sexual selection ranged from intense competition — where 90 males competed for only 10 females — through to the complete absence of sexual selection, with monogamous pairings in which females had no choice and males no competition.
After seven years of reproduction, representing about 50 generations, the scientists found that populations where there had been strong sexual selection were fitter and more resilient to extinction in the face of inbreeding.
So now you know.
Image via Shutterstock
Contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.