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Old 20th November 2019, 07:22 AM   #41
HansMustermann
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Personally I'm not convinced by the whole "hur hur hur, showing off a disadvantage to get the ladies" theory about the peacock to be honest. If that were the case, then any FEMALE peackock which had a mutation to not prefer disadvantaged males would increase HER offspring's chance to survive, and the whole thing would die out. Like any other disadvantages are bred out by natural selection.

There are plenty of reasons why various animals can try to look bigger, or be brightly coloured, or whatever. E.g.,

- most animals simply judge the size of an opponent when deciding whether to attack or not. Hence why cats arch, turn sidways and puff up in a defensive posture. For non-human potential aggressors that cat just actually became a bigger foe.

- most ambush predators avoid attacking from the side where they can see the eyes. E.g., they actually dramatically reduced tiger attacks on humans in some places by just wearing a mask on the back of the head. A huge tail with lots of eyes can do just that from both front and back.

- camouflage. Just like the stripes on a tabby cat or the counter-shading on most animals, really. For a human, sure, it just makes the cat more obvious, but most animals have problems because their image processing isn't anywhere near that of a human brain. Stuff that creates lots of extra lines and breaks up the actual shape of the prey is actually an advantage.

- aposematism. We all know about warning colouring -- e.g., in ladybugs -- but an equally valid way to avoid being picked on is to just imitate the colouring of such a dangerous prey, so you too get left alone.

- stuff that doesn't matter. A lot of predators can't see colours all that well, or even can't see some colours at all. Stuff that looks bright and patterned and more recognizable to us, isn't necessarily so for everyone else. E.g., fish that are coloured red and yellow are actually just black past a depth, because only blue light really gets down there. So they didn't evolve out the red and yellow colouring because it doesn't matter.

- actually making yourself a target, e.g., to draw attention from your offspring.

Etc.

Just because we don't understand why the peacock evolved that particular tail, and against what past predators it was supposed to help, doesn't mean that automatically "hur hur hur, sexual selection, Beavis!" is the right explanation.
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Old 20th November 2019, 10:56 AM   #42
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Originally Posted by dann View Post
The size or the erection? Erectile dysfunction can be due to high blood pressure.
Well, allegedly the male peacock's tail also tends to make it easier for predators to get at it. I never heard about men being inconvenienced in the same way ...
I'm constantly being stalked by horses. I assumed it was penile envy.
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Old 20th November 2019, 10:57 AM   #43
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Originally Posted by HansMustermann View Post
Personally I'm not convinced by the whole "hur hur hur, showing off a disadvantage to get the ladies" theory about the peacock to be honest. If that were the case, then any FEMALE peackock which had a mutation to not prefer disadvantaged males would increase HER offspring's chance to survive, and the whole thing would die out. Like any other disadvantages are bred out by natural selection.

There are plenty of reasons why various animals can try to look bigger, or be brightly coloured, or whatever. E.g.,

- most animals simply judge the size of an opponent when deciding whether to attack or not. Hence why cats arch, turn sidways and puff up in a defensive posture. For non-human potential aggressors that cat just actually became a bigger foe.

- most ambush predators avoid attacking from the side where they can see the eyes. E.g., they actually dramatically reduced tiger attacks on humans in some places by just wearing a mask on the back of the head. A huge tail with lots of eyes can do just that from both front and back.

- camouflage. Just like the stripes on a tabby cat or the counter-shading on most animals, really. For a human, sure, it just makes the cat more obvious, but most animals have problems because their image processing isn't anywhere near that of a human brain. Stuff that creates lots of extra lines and breaks up the actual shape of the prey is actually an advantage.

- aposematism. We all know about warning colouring -- e.g., in ladybugs -- but an equally valid way to avoid being picked on is to just imitate the colouring of such a dangerous prey, so you too get left alone.

- stuff that doesn't matter. A lot of predators can't see colours all that well, or even can't see some colours at all. Stuff that looks bright and patterned and more recognizable to us, isn't necessarily so for everyone else. E.g., fish that are coloured red and yellow are actually just black past a depth, because only blue light really gets down there. So they didn't evolve out the red and yellow colouring because it doesn't matter.

- actually making yourself a target, e.g., to draw attention from your offspring.

Etc.

Just because we don't understand why the peacock evolved that particular tail, and against what past predators it was supposed to help, doesn't mean that automatically "hur hur hur, sexual selection, Beavis!" is the right explanation.
Jesus, save it for when I defend a dissertation on peacock plumage evolution. I was just citing a common folk belief as an illustrative analogy, no need to bite my head off.
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Old 20th November 2019, 08:46 PM   #44
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Originally Posted by HansMustermann View Post
Personally I'm not convinced by the whole "hur hur hur, showing off a disadvantage to get the ladies" theory about the peacock to be honest. If that were the case, then any FEMALE peackock which had a mutation to not prefer disadvantaged males would increase HER offspring's chance to survive, and the whole thing would die out. Like any other disadvantages are bred out by natural selection.
You misunderstood the principle. It's all about the females. No one cares about the silly posturing males.
The male surviving with the larger handicap might be equally fit to another (in the sense of being able to survive and reproduce), but he will need superior genes to do so since he has to compensate for he's handicap. The female, selecting the most handicapped male, ensures that her daughters (where the handicap is not expressed) end up with the superior genes.
It doesn't matter if there are heavy casualties amongst severely handicapped males, since the strongest, fittest individuals, who do make it to adulthood, are capable of inseminating multiple females.
It's a huge advantage she gives her daughters, having genes capable of surviving when you are highly visible and have to drag a huge tail around, but not having the tail as well as being cryptically coloured.
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Last edited by Cheetah; 20th November 2019 at 10:36 PM.
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Old 26th November 2019, 04:41 AM   #45
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Originally Posted by HansMustermann View Post
Personally I'm not convinced by the whole "hur hur hur, showing off a disadvantage to get the ladies" theory about the peacock to be honest. If that were the case, then any FEMALE peackock which had a mutation to not prefer disadvantaged males would increase HER offspring's chance to survive, and the whole thing would die out. Like any other disadvantages are bred out by natural selection.

There are plenty of reasons why various animals can try to look bigger, or be brightly coloured, or whatever. E.g.,

- most animals simply judge the size of an opponent when deciding whether to attack or not. Hence why cats arch, turn sidways and puff up in a defensive posture. For non-human potential aggressors that cat just actually became a bigger foe.

- most ambush predators avoid attacking from the side where they can see the eyes. E.g., they actually dramatically reduced tiger attacks on humans in some places by just wearing a mask on the back of the head. A huge tail with lots of eyes can do just that from both front and back.

- camouflage. Just like the stripes on a tabby cat or the counter-shading on most animals, really. For a human, sure, it just makes the cat more obvious, but most animals have problems because their image processing isn't anywhere near that of a human brain. Stuff that creates lots of extra lines and breaks up the actual shape of the prey is actually an advantage.

- aposematism. We all know about warning colouring -- e.g., in ladybugs -- but an equally valid way to avoid being picked on is to just imitate the colouring of such a dangerous prey, so you too get left alone.

- stuff that doesn't matter. A lot of predators can't see colours all that well, or even can't see some colours at all. Stuff that looks bright and patterned and more recognizable to us, isn't necessarily so for everyone else. E.g., fish that are coloured red and yellow are actually just black past a depth, because only blue light really gets down there. So they didn't evolve out the red and yellow colouring because it doesn't matter.

- actually making yourself a target, e.g., to draw attention from your offspring.

Etc.

Just because we don't understand why the peacock evolved that particular tail, and against what past predators it was supposed to help, doesn't mean that automatically "hur hur hur, sexual selection, Beavis!" is the right explanation.
This can be important in sexual selection. If there is intra-sexual competition between males then the bigger more scary male may drive off other males. So bigger horns or a bigger tail may be important for competition between males.

Being well endowed may be a sign of good nutrition and a surrogate marker for a 'fit' mate. As said above a well endowed cock who makes a good display obviously has characteristics that have allowed him to survive despite his encumbrance. This is inter-sexual competition where the males compete for the females attention and the females choose the largest cock. That the cocks appear bigger by the way they display their tails doesn't alter the fact that the best display may be a maker of evolutionary fitness.

Yes there may be a mutation for not being attracted to males with big tails, this will be a driver to speciation. Females with the gene for being attracted to larger cocks will breed with better endowed males, their male offspring will inherit genes for a larger tail and the females will inherit genes to be attracted to better endowed males. Assuming there is some intra-sexual competition between females for mates then those females who aren't attracted to better endowed males may be more likely to mate with less well endowed males and their characteristics will be inherited. If there is linkage with some other characteristic or being less well endowed allows a different niche to be exploited then you are on the way to speciation. Evolution by sexual selection is common in insect where some insects have complex lock and key genitalia, and mutations can make parts of a population unable to copulate.
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Old 26th November 2019, 05:22 AM   #46
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Summary of findings from the original post:

Apparently, there are several references in classical Greek myths to the idea of virgin sacrifice. Meanwhile, in the middle ages, there are several stories of dragons eating people, and the king's unmarried daughter somehow ends up on the menu. The idea of dragons eating virgins seems to be a melding of the two concepts, although I haven't found a specific story where it happened, so I don't know how far back the specific idea actually goes.
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Old 27th November 2019, 12:50 AM   #47
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I think it may just be the case that the stories that were the most memorable were the ones involving the apex predator of the Germanic world.

All through ancient times AND the middle ages, there were plenty of other human-eating monsters. Grendel from Beowulf comes to mind, and he's not a dragon. It's also not all that remembered, because honestly, a guy that can be defeated bare-handed by the hero doesn't sound all that scary these days. Or in Renaissance I'd definitely say werewolves were the most feared threat, because kids getting eaten by wolves was something that actually happened. Revenants were also a big scare.

But skip to the Victorian age or a bit before, and IMHO it's not that virginity became a bigger deal (as suggested before), it's that these other monsters weren't as big and immediate threat as in past ages. Wolves eating little girls becomes just a metaphor for sexual predators (it's spelled out point blank in the Perrault version of Little Red Riding Hood) rather than something that happened in your village just last month and you pray won't happen again to YOUR kid. What is the scariest opponent shifts to stuff that is the biggest danger in an imaginary heroic world, rather than the smaller but formerly more immediate and real threats.
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Old 27th November 2019, 02:02 AM   #48
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Originally Posted by Cheetah View Post
You misunderstood the principle. It's all about the females. No one cares about the silly posturing males.
The male surviving with the larger handicap might be equally fit to another (in the sense of being able to survive and reproduce), but he will need superior genes to do so since he has to compensate for he's handicap. The female, selecting the most handicapped male, ensures that her daughters (where the handicap is not expressed) end up with the superior genes.
It doesn't matter if there are heavy casualties amongst severely handicapped males, since the strongest, fittest individuals, who do make it to adulthood, are capable of inseminating multiple females.
It's a huge advantage she gives her daughters, having genes capable of surviving when you are highly visible and have to drag a huge tail around, but not having the tail as well as being cryptically coloured.

So the female doesn't mind about the huge disadvantage she gives her sons?!
It's much more likely that the male peacock's tail helps confuse predators, i.e. that it helps the male peacock survive and protect its flock.
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Old 27th November 2019, 02:11 AM   #49
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Originally Posted by TragicMonkey View Post
I'm constantly being stalked by horses. I assumed it was penile envy.

Well, as long as it's an evolutionary advantage, I guess you'll have to learn to live with it.
I think that virgins tend to be very fond of horses, but they are even more into unicorns.
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"Stupidity renders itself invisible by assuming very large proportions. Completely unreasonable claims are irrefutable. Ni-en-leh pointed out that a philosopher might get into trouble by claiming that two times two makes five, but he does not risk much by claiming that two times two makes shoe polish." B. Brecht
"The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is required for their real happiness. The demand to give up the illusion about its condition is the demand to give up a condition which needs illusions." K. Marx
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Old 27th November 2019, 02:12 AM   #50
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I wouldn't put it as "the female doesn't mind", but rather as "the natural selection doesn't mind." And to my mind, it does "mind", because you transmit your genes through both sons and daughters. And it doesn't take a huge disparity in overall survival chance to select the better gene combination in the very long run.
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Old 27th November 2019, 04:15 AM   #51
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I agree. It was my reductio ad absurdum of the argument about a bird that selects a handicapped male to ensure better genes in order to give her daughters an advantage.
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"Stupidity renders itself invisible by assuming very large proportions. Completely unreasonable claims are irrefutable. Ni-en-leh pointed out that a philosopher might get into trouble by claiming that two times two makes five, but he does not risk much by claiming that two times two makes shoe polish." B. Brecht
"The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is required for their real happiness. The demand to give up the illusion about its condition is the demand to give up a condition which needs illusions." K. Marx
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Old 27th November 2019, 04:55 AM   #52
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Pulls off

plays off.
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Old 27th November 2019, 07:47 AM   #53
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Originally Posted by dann View Post
Well, as long as it's an evolutionary advantage, I guess you'll have to learn to live with it.
I think that virgins tend to be very fond of horses, but they are even more into unicorns.
I think the love of horses and unicorns frequently exhibited by young girls is best left undiscussed outside of psychology class.

Ditto boys and guns and swords.
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Old 27th November 2019, 03:57 PM   #54
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Originally Posted by dann View Post
I agree. It was my reductio ad absurdum of the argument about a bird that selects a handicapped male to ensure better genes in order to give her daughters an advantage.
Yep. I wasn't disagreeing. Merely nitpicking on the wording.
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Old 27th November 2019, 03:58 PM   #55
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Originally Posted by TragicMonkey View Post
I think the love of horses and unicorns frequently exhibited by young girls is best left undiscussed outside of psychology class.

Ditto boys and guns and swords.
Oi, I'm only polishing it so it doesn't rust. And that goes for the sword too
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Old 27th November 2019, 06:23 PM   #56
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Umm... the trait that gets the males the most mating opportunities and results in them producing more offspring than other males is not a "disadvantage" in evolution. It's the definition of a successful, advantageous trait.
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Old 28th November 2019, 01:11 AM   #57
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A trait that is supposedly a handicap for survival, however is.

And is it? The average life expectancy of a peacock in the wild is anywhere between 10 and 25 years. (In captivity it's 40 to 50.) It's actually one of the most adept birds ever at not getting eaten. So how does one come to the idea that the tail must be a handicap just for display?

I already mentioned several more practical roles that the tail can serve, but let's look at just one. The pheasant naturally lives in areas of relatively dense vegetation, and prefers to stay on the ground when there are any airborne threats. That tail is practically a bush with eyes you can deploy anywhere you wish.

Basically, nobody contests that impressing the females is a major factor. What I'm contesting is the idea that it's impressing them with a HANDICAP.
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Old 28th November 2019, 03:24 AM   #58
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In the Basque Country many Saint Michael shrines and mountain churches are supposedly placed where there were previous pagan shrines, some think it has something to do with the myth of the Archangel Michael killing "the dragon", symbolising an old pagan cult being defeated by Christianity. This makes me wonder if the myth of the virgins offered to dragons are based on real ancient pagan ritual sacrifices, somewhat symbolically remembered...
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Old 28th November 2019, 08:37 AM   #59
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Originally Posted by Abooga View Post
In the Basque Country many Saint Michael shrines and mountain churches are supposedly placed where there were previous pagan shrines, some think it has something to do with the myth of the Archangel Michael killing "the dragon", symbolising an old pagan cult being defeated by Christianity. This makes me wonder if the myth of the virgins offered to dragons are based on real ancient pagan ritual sacrifices, somewhat symbolically remembered...
Virgins were more common as priestesses in pagan religious practice than as sacrifices.
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Old 3rd December 2019, 11:47 AM   #60
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Originally Posted by Wudang View Post
Thank you. I believe some of my recollection was from older fantasy books of various qualities and it was not always clear whether refering to the dragon (or similar) as "worm" was accurate or derisive, or just plain made up. Googling has turned up references to Lindworms (or lindorms) which expands the term worm to include creatures with snakelike bodies and little or no limbs. In some cases including what I would refer to as a wyvern but more typically (in my readings) as something that moved like a snake but possibly with forelimbs.
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Old 3rd December 2019, 11:57 AM   #61
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Originally Posted by luchog View Post
What is the one with an owl head, crocodile body, bat wings, and three pairs of rhino legs? Asking because it's trying to get into the building right now. Do you think it may be friendly?
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Old 3rd December 2019, 02:15 PM   #62
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Originally Posted by TragicMonkey View Post
What is the one with an owl head, crocodile body, bat wings, and three pairs of rhino legs? Asking because it's trying to get into the building right now. Do you think it may be friendly?

That's just the cat. Maybe put down the can of spray paint.
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