Female mating preference is genetic


The objection is often raised against sociobiological theory that different behavioural strategies have never been shown to be genetically determined. Yet if they are to evolve at all, the differences must be in part hereditary. Nobody would dispute that many aspects of behaviour—the song of Drosophila or birds, or the tendency to migrate, for example—would show genetic variation. But sociobiologists assert that different strategies of behaviour— the alternative courses of action that an animal might take—are also inherited and can thus be selected: strategies for example, such as whether to be a ‘hawk’ or a ‘dove’ in conflicts, or whether to choose one type of male because he may be a better mate than others. No doubt there are many aspects of behaviour that vary genetically and thus produce variations in the chances of success in conflicts or in finding mates. But does an animal prefer to follow one course of action rather than other alternative courses, and is its preference hereditary? This is the crucial question for sociobiology. As dogmatically as some sociobiologists have answered ‘Yes’, so have some population geneticists anwered ‘No’. Lewontin1 called Dawkins' The Selfish Gene2 a caricature of Darwinism for assuming that all behaviour may be inherited and natural selection can therefore do anything. These extreme views persist for lack of experimental evidence. We show here that female mating preference can be substantially increased in successive generations by artificial selection. It must therefore have a genetic component.

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Majerus, M., O'Donald, P. & Weir, J. Female mating preference is genetic. Nature 300, 521–523 (1982). https://doi.org/10.1038/300521a0

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