Sexual Dimorphism In Human Voice: Female Mate Choice And The Competition For Dominance

2013 words - 9 pages

As in other sexually reproducing anisogamous species, humans have sexually dimorphic traits of both morphological and behavioural kinds. Such traits are said to have evolved through sexual selection, the limiting force allowing individuals to out-reproduce others. At the level of gametes, we expect asymmetries in reproductive effort and in reproductive potential, which yields sexual dimorphism. According to Triversian Parental Investment Theory (PIT), the sex of a species who provides higher post-zygotic investment, typically the female, would be more selective in mates, such that the sex who invests less in a species, typically the male, would require traits seen as attractive in order to have selective advantage. Moreover, as females serve as the limiting resource for reproduction, PIT predicts that males are expected to have higher variance in reproductive success (RS) than females, so intrasexual selection would operate more strongly in males, whose aggressive competition for mate access would yield differences in fitness maximising strategies, whether through somatic or behavioural traits. Thus, sexual selection, is the primary explanation for sex differences within a Darwinian framework. Vocal characteristics in men and women are considered sexually dimorphic traits. Puts, Jones and DeBruine (2012) cited that women’s average voice pitch post-puberty is much higher than men’s, that men speak in a more monotone voice, and that men’s vocal tracts and vocal folds are longer than women’s. Since we belong to an effectively polygynous species, we can assume that this trait evolved through sexual selection, acting strongly in men. In this paper, I will discuss the present arguments on the evolution of sex-differentiated vocal morphology and function, seeing as both could be through female mate choice as an honest signal of mate quality, and/or through intrasexual competition as a signal of dominance and aggression for better securing access to resources, and thus, procuring better mating opportunities.
Female Mate Choice
Low voice pitch is cross-culturally considered a cue to masculinity; and, as with other masculinising traits, it is androgen-dependent. Female mate choice is one of the foci in the human vocal trait literature, since women are the limiting resource for men’s reproductive success in an effectively polygynous mating system. Intersexual selection can act on traits that females find attractive, whether on traits that do not necessarily increase survivability (i.e., runaway selection, sexy son), and/or on traits that are indicators of high mate quality to enhance inclusive fitness (i.e., good genes). If female mate choice was the primary selective force that yielded the evolution of men’s longer vocal folds, supralaryngeal vocal tracts, and dramatic pubertal drop in vocal pitch, we expect to find evidence indicating that low vocal pitch signals high quality genes, and/or that it is a trait women find attractive. Puts, Jones, and...

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