Self-Reflection: Mate Selection

Mate selection is the course of action in which an organism selects another for mating purposes. Based on the theory of natural selection, species engage in mate selection for an overall reason, that is, to choose a mate who can offer superior genetic material that can survive to reproduce and hence, continue the cycle. However, it is also imperative to note that the environment in which these organisms live is integral to the process of mate selection, as those that survive live long enough to choose a mate, are the ones that produce their own progeny and pass their traits along. Mate selection has direct and indirect benefits. These benefits affect a certain entity, for example, the direct benefits of mate selection impinge on female organisms directly by lengthening her lifespan reproductive output. Perhaps this is the principal reason why females choose males who have the capacity to reproduce in order to produce many offspring who can survive in the same environment. On the other hand, indirect benefits affect the offspring. In the process of mate selection, a mate chooses another with exacting complimentary traits. The chooser benefits directly simply because, the particularly favorable trait passes down to the offspring. For instance, in the fish species, the female prefers males with eggs already in the breeding zone as compared to those that do not have. The main reason for this preference is that the father is there to ensure protection until the eggs hatch. This is a direct benefit to the offspring. Additionally, the mother benefits directly in that the offspring have a high probability to survive courtesy of the father offering the much-needed security (Kokko & Brooks, 2003, pp. 653-658).

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Choosing a mate is not an easy process especially among humans due to significant role it plays in natural selection. For example, when the peahens want to mate, they go for the most gorgeous peacocks, female elephants prefer males who have attracted a myriad of harems, and interestingly, licentious chimpanzees select chimps who would like the habit. All this is meant to transfer the traits to the offspring. However, it is important to note that among mammals, humans are excluded, we do not have family arrangements where the male takes care of the progeny. On the contrary, men and women select their partners and bond together in marriage and thus, forming a family arrangement. Sometimes, these bonds, created for mating purposes, do not necessarily perform this function since some mating occurs outside this regime. In fact, some social backgrounds allow polygamous arrangements thus, no procedure of mating. Nevertheless, the truth of the matter is that even in polygamous arrangements, people choose mates. Why do they then choose mates and do not feel comfortable sharing them with other people just like other animals? In trying to answer the question of why humans choose mates, it is imperative to consider two significant points. Firstly, the social background of people is full of universalities and variations. Secondly, and interestingly, there some people choose companions for short-term relationships while others choose companions for long-term relationships ( pp. 659-664).

However, the biggest question is how one finds a mate. In mammals—excluding humans—mate selection is not cumbersome. However, in human beings, a man or a woman wants to select the perfect partner, whether for short-term or long-term relationships. Sometimes, the process of mate selection involves stress, as one has to make an informed decision. In trying to unravel the mystery behind mate selection, experts have developed a flurry of theories to explain the factors that influence mate selection. In the mate selection process, males have their own recipe—quite different from that of females. The recipe of female choosers appears more complicated than that of male choosers due to palpable and instinctive reasons. For example, according to the size assertive mating theory, women prefer men who command territory ownership and the capability to provide the basic needs such as food, housing and paternal care. In terms of size, mates (especially females) choose ledge-sized organisms for a number of reasons. For instance, these organisms believe that large-sized mates will offer protection, are more dominant, and definitely would pass the traits to the progeny. Thus, size assertive mating is one of the most common patterns of mating in natural selection, and is dominant across all animals, right from flatworms to mammals. In some cases, size assertive mating can occur when females select mates that will match their own bodies. Some small-sized females opt for large-sized males aimed at matching the sizes. Some theories suggest that the idea of size in mate selection can lead to sexual dimorphism if the chooser makes a choice for one sex. On the other hand, males also exercise mate selection based on sizes. For instance, blue-eyes fish are more likely to choose large females if given an opportunity to choose between small and large potential mates (Taborsky & Guyer, 2009, pp. 439-448).

Some experts have also developed a theory founded on model organism Drosophila to suggest the reason for selecting mates. The theory argues that the pheromones released by males play a significant role especially in influencing them to select female mates. The debate on whether this is true has also attracted scientific research on the role of genome in mate selection. Scientists believe that like pheromones, genome plays a significant role in mate selection. To some extent, scientific research of nucleotide sequences has shown that microsatellites influence mate selection among females. For example, microsatellite avpr1a performs a myriad of functions. This neuropeptide element stored in the vasopressin is responsible for definite social behaviors that range from the configuration of pair bonds to the jurisdiction of paternal care. In other studies, experts have associated hypertension, autism and other human behaviors with microsatellite avpr1a. However, scientific research on prairie voles suggests that microsatellite avpr1a influences mate selection. For instance, if microsatellite avpr1a is extensive, the products of vasopressin 1a receptor gene are vast and without doubt, this boosts the parental care responsibilities on the male side, while on the other hand, it cultivates female predilection (Miller & Todd, 1998, pp. 190-198).

In animals, sound also plays a bigger role in the process of mate choice. Among certain species, for example, birds and wild animals, the sound is a factor in choosing a mate. Some species, for example, frogs, have the mastery of sound informing them of a particular mate partner. For instance, the tree frogs, popular in North America and very much aggressive choose strategic positions at night and then make a particular sound meant to draw female frogs. When the females hear that particular sound, they draw near for mating purposes. Clearly, the process of mate selection varies from one species to another, and in mammals, the process is unique. Of great importance to note is that female frogs choose the best frequency from the very many vocalizes. Thus, it is not only the sound that attracts, but also the frequency of that sound. Moving on to field crickets, males use sound in form of acoustic signals to attract females for mating. When the females approach, they entertain them with courtships songs and finally mating starts. Note that mate selection among field crickets occurs at numerous and different locations. Thus, the females would like to hear the sound of the same frequency; otherwise, the interest in males will disappear (Rebar & Bailey, 2009, pp. 1307-1314).

Thus, sound of a particular frequency is a factor in mate selection among field crickets. The same case also applies to birds. In birds, the male with larger repertoire of songs is the one that attracts the attention of the female birds. According to the Nutritional Strength Hypothesis, male birds with a good mastery of songs not only portray its quality, but also, the fully developed brain regions. The development of the brain regions takes place when young birds go minus food and other strains immediately after hatching. During this period, the birds learn how to sing and recite songs. Thus, male birds that can produce a repertoire of songs exhibit how brawny they were during the post-hatch period, and most probably, how the progeny will fare when they reach the post-hatch period. Both undernutrition and stress affect song learning in male birds and hence, mate selection (Nowicki, 2002, pp. 1003-1010).

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In human beings, studies indicate that men who show high degrees of narcissism, Machiavellianism and psychopathy tend to attract more females as compared to other men. For women, these men are short-term mates who they would want to prove their genetic material. Women also want men, who can support them financially and thus, when selecting a mate, material support is a factor. Other factors integral in mate selection among humans include feminine and masculine faces, extraversion, intelligence, anxiety, and facial symmetry. However, it is paramount to note that in human beings, conscious and unconscious strategies play a significant role in mate selection

Reference List

Kokko, H. & Brooks, J. (2003). The evolution of mate choice and mating biases. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. Series B: Biological Sciences, 270(1515), 653-664.

Miller, G. & Todd, P. (1998). Mate choice turns cognitive. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 2: 190-198.

Nowicki, S. (2002). Brain development, song learning and mate choice in birds: a review and experimental test of the “nutritional stress hypothesis”. Journal of Comparative Physiology A: Neuroethology, Sensory, Neural, and Behavioral Physiology, 188(11), 1003-1010.

Rebar, D. & Bailey, Z. (2009). Courtship songs role during female mate choice in the field cricket Teleogryllus oceanicus. Behavioral Ecology, 20(6), 1307-1314.

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Taborsky, B. & Guyer, T. (2009). Size-assortative mating in the absence of mate choice. Animal Behavior, 77(2), 439-448.

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