Diane Ackerman – Froggy Went a Courtin’

Diane Ackerman entranced me with her talks of mating rituals. She covered a multitude of mating rituals practiced by both humans and other animals in a rather poetic way. While we know that mating rituals help the female decide who the best mate is, we never really expounded much on specifics. We knew that from the Darwinian perspective, the female wanted the male with the most advantageous genes to pass onto their offspring, but what really hinted that to the female? Diane Ackerman managed to make such primal urges seem so romantic. Ackerman started off her lecture with a rather poetic depiction of a candlelit dinner between a man and a woman. And then Ackerman equates that to a lion dumping the carcass of its latest catch in front of a lioness. Courtship feeding. That’s really what a romantic dinner date is. As much as humanity tries to differentiate itself from our roommates on Earth, we really aren’t that different. A courtship feeding showed that the male could support the female and offspring with food, and often preceded copulation. While us humans aren’t as single minded in our goals as to simply pass on our genes, the courtship feeding really does mean the same thing. I can imagine the female would judge the male based off of the quality of the food and restaurant that he had taken her to, all surmounting to whether or not this man will be a quality husband.

In other mating rituals, Ackerman tells us that we really aren’t that different from other animals. For instance, she told us of a male beetle that had a cleft on its forehead that contained a poison that would repel predators. The female beetle is immune to this poison, and so during mating rituals, the female essentially “checks out” the male by seeing the quality of the poison. If the poison is of a good quality, the female can rest easy knowing that her eggs will be well protected. This, Ackerman says, is the equivalent of a “fat wallet” that women look for in men. I could go on and on, but essentially what Ackerman was trying to tell us, was that despite how advanced we may be compared to other animals, we are all still hardwired to engage in reproduction.

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