The Shallowness of Pipefish

March 29, 2010

Torah Kachur

Usually, when really shallow and self-centered people select a mate they think of one thing, and one thing only - looks.  Is he hot?  Is she sexy?  And, if you answer yes, then it's game on. 


Most people would say that selecting a fellow parent should be much more complex than just physical appearance:  it should also factor in things like parentage, middle finger size, horoscopes - traits obviously way more important than physical health.  But selection based on physical appearance is a fundamental law of nature because our notion of beauty - strength, symmetry and proportion - is actually rooted in a biological capacity to survive and reproduce.


       Torah Kachur Evolution beauty pipefish

The male pipefish not only selects females based on their appearance, but if the mother is not a perfect 36-24-36, the male can selectively abort some of the offspring during his pregnancy.  Pipefish are in the same family of organisms as seahorses, where the male carry the young.  And, being that all men of every species are lazy and selfish creatures, male pipefish don't like to be pregnant with ugly babies.  So they kill some off. 


But, this isn't just because pipefish have some crazy notion of aesthetics, it is an evolutionary trade-off.  A large brood size means that the next mating will result in fewer offspring.  So, if the male pipefish does the nasty with a female deserving of a paperbag and fathers her children, he may want to cull a few just in case he has a chance encounter with the Angelina Jolie version of his species.


Normally I wouldn't be a fan of infanticide, but in this case it is really quite cool:  the male can conserve his resources to maximize the survival of his offspring, those that are more physically beautiful are usually also those that are more physically adapted. 


Beauty is simply an artifact of evolution and natural selection.


So beautiful people are better?....wait, I don't like this argument anymore...



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