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03/06/2012

Biologist Joris Koene co-authors book on sexual conflict

Koene describes striking examples from the animal kingdom of conflict between the sexes in the introductory chapter.

In The Oxford Handbook of Sexual Conflict in Humans, scientists take a thorough look at the effects that sexual conflict has on humans. VU biologist Joris Koene has written the introductory chapter in which he describes striking examples from the animal kingdom. 

“Sexual conflict occurs because males produce large quantities of sperm, while females invest heavily in producing a limited number of eggs,” explains Koene. “This means that females are selective when choosing a partner, while males want to fertilize as many eggs as they can with their sperm. Of course, reproduction is an activity in which both sexes have to take part, but in evolutionary terms this does not mean that the interests of the sexes coincide. This can lead to the evolution of bizarre mating behaviours.”

Koene describes how snails stab ‘love darts’ into their partner to improve their sperm’s survival, thus increasing the chances of fertilization. He also explains how male bed bugs hypodermically inject sperm into the female’s abdomen. The sperm then find their own way to the female’s eggs. In this way, the males bypass the selection on sperm cells that usually takes place within the female reproductive system. Subsequently, conflicts involving pregnancy and caring for offspring are also covered.

In the 21 chapters that follow, leading experts in evolutionary psychology and anthropology explain the consequences of sexual conflict in humans. They discuss subjects such as jealousy, marital discord, sexual intimidation, the menstrual cycle, the female orgasm and the chemical warfare that takes place between sperm and the female sexual organs.

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