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Polygyny

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Chief Makwira and his wives, Malawi, 1903. Older men had first priority. Younger men could gain access to women only through war or adultery.  Credit: Wikimedia Commons
In my last column, I reviewed the findings of Butovskaya et al. (2015) on testosterone and polygyny in two East African peoples: - Testosterone levels were higher in the polygynous Datoga than in the monogamous Hadza. This difference is innate. - Datoga men were more aggressive than Hadza men on all measures used (physical aggression,... Read More
Hadza men are smaller, less robust, and less aggressive than the more polygynous Datoga. Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Humans differ in paternal investment—the degree to which fathers help mothers care for their offspring. They differ in this way between individuals, between populations, and between stages of cultural evolution. During the earliest stage, when all humans were hunter-gatherers, men invested more in their offspring with increasing distance from the equator. Longer, colder winters made... Read More
The Babylonian Marriage Market, by Edwin Long (1829-1891)  Credit: Wikimedia Commons.  There are too many young men on the mate market, particularly in the White American community.
It sucks being young, male, and single. Don't think so? Go to the Interactive Singles Map of the United States and see how it looks for the 20 to 39 age group. Almost everywhere single men outnumber single women. And the real picture is worse. For one thing, the imbalance is greater among singles without... Read More
HBD Chick and I talk about how rates of historic inbreeding have had an important impact on the selective pressures acting on the traits of various peoples living today. We have often used Europe and the Middle East as examples of this, because strong regional variations in historic rates of inbreeding exist in those places.... Read More
How to hyperstimulate a sex-recognition algorithm. Women have higher luminous contrast between their facial skin and their lip/eye color. This contrast effect is influenced not only by degree of lightness but also by degree of redness (source). Women are fairer in complexion because their skin has less melanin and less blood (Edwards and Duntley, 1939).... Read More
Beyoncé Knowles, 2012. Is skin bleaching consistent with indigenous African values? (source) A Zambian-born sociologist visited his home village with his white American wife and two of their children. Having lost his way, he asked an elderly lady for directions. She gladly told him: But then she said, addressing his boys in the car, in... Read More
Incidence of chlamydia, a major cause of infertility. The high polygyny rate among the “female farming” peoples of sub-Saharan Africa may have favored the evolution of STDs. Is this where we should look for the precursor of the hypothetical “gay germ”? (source) Heritability for male homosexuality is low to moderate (30 to 45%). There is... Read More
Squamous cervix cells covered with rod-shaped bacteria, Gardnerella vaginalis(source) Bacterial vaginosis is a common disease among reproductive-aged women: Its incidence correlates with the number of lifetime sex partners, and this correlation holds true even when one controls for a series of socioeconomic variables: poverty, smoking, body mass index, douching frequency, education, and oral contraceptive use... Read More
Post edited (5/31/13) See below. As promised, here is my post on this fascinating, and rather mysterious topic. Who doesn't love bisexual women? Before my foray into the HBD world, I thought that that was a trick question. In any case, I'm certainly quite fond of them. :) But bisexuality, or for that matter lesbianism—like... Read More
Do older fathers have dumber children? For the past millennium, paternal age has been relatively high in Europe west of the Hajnal line. Yet, if anything, mean IQ is higher there than elsewhere. H/T to JayMan (source) Greg Cochran has been running a series of posts on paternal age and IQ (here, here, and here).... Read More
Red-winged blackbird (source). Is dark coloration directly linked to male aggressiveness? For the past thirty years, psychologist Philippe Rushton has been using life history theory to explain human differences in many areas: IQ, sexual development, parental investment, mating system, time orientation, etc. Initially, he saw skin color as being incidental. In recent years, however, he... Read More
Slave exports to the Americas from different parts of Africa (Dalton & Leung, 2011). Did the slave trade create patterns of behavior that today exist throughout sub-Saharan Africa, such as generalized polygyny? Why is polygyny so frequent in sub-Saharan Africa? As Goody (1973, p. 177) noted, the differences with Eurasia are striking: Goody (1973) attributes... Read More
Sir John Hawkins (1532-1595) was instrumental in bringing England into the slave trade. Was this trade a source of new pathogens for the English population? Some vaginal strains of Candida albicans have become better at sexual transmission, such as through improved adhesion to saliva-coated surfaces and through displacement of non-vaginal strains in a new host.... Read More
While birth rates fall everywhere else, sub-Saharan Africa remains an outlier of high fertility (2009). Throughout most of the world, the demographic transition has played out as predicted. Fertility rates have fallen to replacement level and even lower, first in Europe and North America and more recently in East Asia, Southeast Asia, the Middle East... Read More
Female and male bush spirits, Côte d’Ivoire The polygyny rate varies considerably among human populations, being highest (20 to 40% of all sexual unions) in the agricultural societies of sub-Saharan Africa and Papua-New Guinea. Such high rates have consequences. The average man will have to wait for a wife until well into adulthood. The average... Read More
Extraversion is part of the male toolkit for mating success. It is especially useful in societies where a high incidence of polygyny means too many men must compete for too few women. As a single man, I would spend close to $3,000 a year on dating. And that didn’t include things like buying a sportier-looking... Read More
I have argued that sexual selection has varied within our species in both intensity and direction (men selecting women or women selecting men) (Frost, 2006; Frost, 2008). In particular, it seems to have varied along a north-south gradient with men being more strongly selected in the tropical zone and women in the temperate and arctic... Read More
The human mind seems to use facial color to determine whether a person is male or female. A man has a relatively dark facial color that contrasts poorly with his lip and eye color. Conversely, a woman has a relatively light facial color that contrasts sharply with her lip and eye color (Russell, 2003; Russell,... Read More
Denise Liberton, an anthropologist at Pennsylvania State University, has been studying variation in human facial features. At an upcoming meeting of the American Society of Human Genetics, she’ll be presenting a comparative study of European and West African facial morphology. The main thrust of her presentation is that the shape of the face has differentiated... Read More
Except for frontier areas, single women used to outnumbered single men on the American marriage market. This situation has reversed since the late 1970s and early 1980s because of falling male mortality and the rising numbers of older men divorcing and remarrying (Pedersen, 1991). Similar reversals have occurred throughout the Western world. In this new... Read More
Beginning in the late 1970s and early 1980s, a reversal took place throughout the Western world in the ratio of single men to single women among people of reproductive age. This sex ratio slipped from male scarcity to parity and then to a relative excess of males, due to a decline in male mortality and... Read More
I was visiting cousins in Collingwood and the subject of conversation turned to a 30-something bachelor who lived down the road. “Maybe he just enjoys being single,” I said. “Oh, no,” came the reply. “He wants to get married. He’s tried everything: dating clubs, church groups. Nothing seems to work.” “Well, maybe he’s ugly or... Read More
Does closeness to the equator make a woman likelier to have daughters? So says Kristen Navara (2009) in a recent article in Biology Letters: The article notes that this pattern results largely from low sex ratios at birth in sub-Saharan Africa. This is no surprise. Many other authors have noted relatively low numbers of male... Read More
What did the first modern humans in Europe look like? The question comes up in a BBC2 series The Incredible Human Journey, which shows the reconstructed head of a man who lived in the Carpathian Mountains some 35,000 years ago. With its brown skin and broad nose, this ‘First European’ looks, well, very un-European. The... Read More
Many anthropologists have noted a correlation between the incidence of polygyny and the predominance of women in agriculture. The more women are responsible for producing food, the likelier men will have second or third wives. This correlation is especially evident in sub-Saharan Africa, where food is produced mostly by mothers hoeing garden plots and where... Read More
In sub-Saharan societies, female-dominated agriculture is associated with low paternal investment and high polygyny rates. Why? The short answer is that year-round tropical agriculture enables women to meet their food needs and those of their children without a male provider. Paternal investment thus tends to fall to zero and men are free to maximize their... Read More
Last year, a team of University of Arizona researchers found evidence of widespread polygyny in five different human populations: Biaka (Central African Republic), Mandenka (Senegal), San (Namibia), Basques (France), Han (China), and Melanesians (Papua New Guinea). In short, the maternally inherited X chromosome was genetically more diverse than the chromosomes inherited by both sexes (autosomes)... Read More
Have all humans been more or less equally polygynous? The answer seems to be yes if we believe a team of researchers from the University of Arizona. They found that genetic diversity is higher on the maternally inherited X chromosome than on chromosomes inherited by both sexes (autosomes) in samples from five different populations: Biaka... Read More
It is often assumed that black Africans, out of all human populations, most closely resemble our common ancestral state. After all, is not Africa the cradle of humanity? And did not modern humans spread ‘out of Africa’ some 50,000 or so years ago? Indeed, we are all offspring of Africa. What is less true is... Read More