Are you a Sneaky F**ker?

Been reading about the Sneaky F**ker Strategy, a genuine scientific term coined by Professor John Maynard Smith in the late nineties. Prof. Smith was a British theoretical evolutionary biologist and geneticist and he tended not to follow rules, in fact he was quite mischievous if truth be told. He passed away in 2004 but he was very interested in sex (shocker eh? British man interested in sex!)

Conventional wisdom states that in nature it’s the most beautiful peacock that gets the bird – or hen in peacocks case, and it’s the biggest silverback gorilla that gets to pass on his good genes and it’s the strongest, fittest stag that gets to mate with his herd and this seems logical,  I’m sure we have all watched nature programs about baying stags fighting over who gets to mate but there is a problem with this theory, namely that after a few generations all male progeny would be strong, fit (and most likely related and therefore cause issues with interbreeding) and logically it should erode genetic variance in the population, it’s called the Lek Paradox.

However, Prof. Smith liked to turn conventional wisdom on it’s head and this is where sneaky f**kers comes in. He took DNA samples from herds of wild deer in Scotland and studied their mating habits during the rutting season and rather surprisingly the DNA seemed to have a very wide spread, it wasn’t just from the strongest/fittest deer but also from many of the less fit deer as well. And then he observed something interesting. As the largest male deer squared up to each other and clashed horns (or antlers in this case) most of the females got bored  (excuse the pun) and sneaked off into the nearly woods where the other deer’s were waiting and they mated with them. And with typical aplomb Prof. Smith called these deer Sneaky F**kers because that’s exactly what they were doing, sneaking off and mating with the lesser deer hiding in the woods and increasing the genetic diversity.

And it seems the world of biology is full of some quite bright people interested in sex and whom like to turn conventional wisdom on it’s head. During the summer of 1994 Elisabet Forsgren (yes, that is how she spells Elisabet) spent a few months studying sandfish in a large tank in Sweden. She put a large and medium sized male in a tank and watched to see who was best at protecting a nest of eggs from a crab. Conventional wisdom states that the bigger fish should be best because it’s stronger and can swim faster but in fact the medium sided sandfish was much better at protecting the eggs, it seemed to be more dedicated to the job than the bigger fish who keep swimming off to explore the tank.

Then Elisabet introduced a female sandfish and the female invariably choose the medium sized sandfish, and the female sandfish hadn’t witnessed the sandfishes previous behaviour but on repeated tests with different fish the female nearly always choose the small sandfish which was more efficient at protecting the eggs than the bigger fish.

So, female deer and sandfish aren’t that impressed with big powerful  muscles and a fine set of lungs, they seem to be able to discern very easily whom would make a better father rather than whom is most virile and I wonder just how much of this translates into the world of humans and dating.

I have met up with folk and (especially during the Speed dating evening) it’s all about what job do you do and how much money do you have, and conversely I’ve met up with dates and none of that figured, they were more interested in me as a person, my future loving potential rather than my future earning potential. And when one thinks about it, in a bit of hot water over there  in NYC is Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former head of the IMF and it seems he did have ‘relations’ with the maid, no-one seems to be denying that but consensual sex rather than rape (allegedly!) but it makes me think, is he like one of the strutting deers; strong, powerful (but perhaps not that child friendly)? His wife seems to be very much in love with him despite sexual allegations going back at least seven years, so she must be willing to put up with him not being faithful and yet strangely, she doesn’t need to worry about him providing a good home as she is heir to a massive fortune from her grandfather Paul Rosenberg, so one must assume she is sticking with him because of love and that’s the one quantity neither Prof. Smith or Elisabeth failed to take into account in all their studies. Do the sandfish and the deer choose their partners, not due to conventional evolutionary theory but because of something much more finer? Who knows but whilst you are thinking about it I’m popping off to hide in the woods.. I might get lucky ;)