"Why are females, out in nature, mostly drab in colour? And, what is with the huge size deficit they have compared to males?"– these questions were raised on an otherwise-fine morning. I had been discussing Fisherian runaway, a term which explains beautification in animals – ivory elephant tusks, the pronounced buffalo horn, the peacock's rainbow train, and branched moose antlers – you name it.
At the university, I facilitate a course on animal behaviour. My students, I must say, are adept at pressing queries.
So, is it so? Does nature trick individuals in the name of equity and equality? Or, is it us, humans, that have a false sense of dominion of disparity – not understanding the complex not-for-layperson rules of evolution?
Below is the rejoinder I provided for the commencing inquiry – the read is a reincarnation of the vibrant time in the class that morning.
And, one thing I must not forget to cite, on the passing day for women, March 8th, this is an homage to all the ladies out there – of the nature or human sphere – who are: caring, loving, sacrificing, and unswerving.
This is the way
When it comes to evolution, "it is the strongest of the species that survives," Charles Darwin stressed. The motto can be scaled down to the inter-sex level. When anyone does that, it is the female who emerges distinctly – strong and victorious. In other words, the cycle of life always follows a nucleus – the female.
The norm is this simple. From big cats to microscopic diminutives, the choices regarding everything are hers: picking mates and best genes – her choice; defending progeny – she is the most fearsome; not needing a male partner to keep the species running – females are the way.
Nature's best nose
"The nose" is an appellation for the artistry mastered in fragrance aesthetics. Females out in the nature are no different. All the extravaganza that males are bestowed upon are to be selected on the finest scale. The brightest mane, the most striking feather tones, the most spectacular horns – all are impressions. They are advertisements while females are the ultimate judges. And, they will judge on a delicate scale.
Coming to your senses, now? The peahen can be a regular-looking bird, dull and not picture-perfect. However, she is the reason today's peacock is painted w+ith a thousand eyes; a major driving force which designed the species in its modern shape.
Bravest of the mothers
"Motherly instinct" needs no explanation. No matter the size, shape or habitat, a mother might be the bravest and the boldest when the security of her offspring is tested.
Take the following story that startled the whole subcontinent. It was about a mother sloth bear's courageous act to save her cub from a male tiger in his prime – yes, you read that right. The bewildering incident took place in Tadoba National Park, India. The bear, trailed by her cub, attempted to approach a waterhole. Not intimidated by the nearby guarding tiger – which soon engaged in a full charge – the half-in-dimension bear fought valiantly, fending every attack, without letting a single scratch strike its cub.
On the grounds of parental care, females come first – again. This is without considering the indescribable and incomparable duty of bearing a futureling. Females mostly do a painstaking share of parental care. In contrasts, mammalian males from a mere five percent of a staggering 5,500 species take part in caring for babies.
Female great hornbills put up a spectacular anecdote. During the breeding period, she confines herself completely within tree-holes until the fledglings are big enough to start flying.
The other way around
Norms can be broken once they are precisely practised. So, it is not the case every time that females are colourless and miniature. Raptorial birds have females in larger dimensions. This is another insurance set by evolution to ward off non-partnered aggressive males. The ruff and greater painted snipe are two birds with females gaudier than males. Here, males do parental care, while females mate as many partners as they can – it is one more evolutionary response to keeping the species going against every odd.
So, it evidently appears: Dominant is the word for them – in paving the course of evolution and natural selection.
And, if you have reached this point of the article, for all the women, you are the hardest, best, strongest and superlative for every other adjective. This is your time to rejoice. For men, try the practice of comprehending the ladies, the all-along far superior beings. Act wisely and be chosen, cared and loved for.
Modus operandi: The Amazons
Greek mythology gives us the Amazons, a tribe of warrior women. As per DC comics, they come into life by worshipping the huntress-goddess Artemis. Conceiving without making love is nothing new in the wilderness. Many frogs, lizards, sharks, and, even birds, are known for non-mated reproduction.
The way leads to a sort of cloning process. The scientific term for the nonpareil show is parthenogenesis.
For the greater good
Females in certain species are known to hunt their mating partners. The praying mantis, certain spiders, and pseudoscorpions practice such rituals. After every successful copulation, males are devoured by the larger females. This is just another solution to walk off – or, eat off?– extinction threats. Extra protein from the male body ensures extra security for the coming babies.
Females in the wild are not always passive controllers. Often they stay decisive in social hierarchy
For example, the lion is the only cat that is social and lionesses undertake Herculean tasks. Not limited to hunting among the herbivores, the role of females is devised to a higher context. For buffalo, elephant and chimpanzee – the pecking order is dominated mostly by matrilineal kinship.