Sexual selection in humans: theoretical models and human behavioral studies

Lead Research Organisation: University of Manchester
Department Name: Earth Atmospheric and Env Sciences


Animals often assess potential mates by their physical characteristics, or phenotypes. In many species, individuals learn to prefer mates with phenotypes similar to those they encountered when they were young. For example, individuals may learn to prefer mates that look like their parents. This phenomenon is called sexual imprinting. Sexual imprinting is common in birds, fish and mammals (including humans), and can profoundly trait evolution, speciation, and the social structure of populations. However, it is difficult to study sexual imprinting in nature, because mate preferences are difficult to assess and even more difficult to replicate. Thus, the traits phenotypes that are evaluated by sexual imprinting are not known, and how sexual imprinting impacts on ecology is poorly understood. In this project, the student will apply advanced mathematical and computational approaches to i) measure sexual imprinting in humans, which are more easily surveyed than other species; and ii) model how sexual imprinting influences evolution so that populations become either well adapted or poorly adapted to their environments. The student will use geometric morphometrics, a form of statistical shape analysis, to ask "What specific phenotypes do humans use in sexual imprinting?" Then, the student will use a combination of adaptive dynamics and agent-based simulations to ask "Under what conditions should we expect sexual imprinting to lead to local adaptation or maladaptation in populations where selection varies in space?" The combination of human data and novel models will open new avenues for the study of this important social behaviour.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
EP/N509565/1 01/10/2016 30/09/2021
2145976 Studentship EP/N509565/1 07/09/2016 31/03/2021 Thomas Richardson