Sunday, January 25, 2009

More about "concealed ovulation"

Apropos of my previous entry: I just found a paper on the internet, albeit not a very recent one, that seems to hypothesize that the reason that ovulation is concealed from the female herself is indeed what I conjectured in my previous post (prehistoric women that avoided sex during fertile periods tended to be supplanted in the gene pool by those for whom ovulation was concealed). The article is titled "The Evolution of Concealed Ovulation", by Nancy Burley, and appears in the journal The American Naturalist, December 1979. Note that this paper was published almost 30 years ago, and it would seem that there has been adequate time to examine this hypothesis, and perhaps it has been largely rejected by evolutionary biologists. However, it is interesting that the Burley paper refers to, but apparently rejects, the Noonan-Alexander hypothesis (also 1979) cited by Linden in his book (see the previous post for the reference), so both hypotheses have been around about the same length of time.
So.......I continue to wonder, what is the current best theory among biologists to explain this feature of human biology. Anyone?


ellen said...

I'm not sure of the evolutionary biologist's prospective on this... But I think your hypothesis seems valid.

The post reminded me a question raised in the book "Woman: An Intimate Geography" by Natalie Angier (good book but a little too much feminism and not enough science)... she asks why women ovulate at all. If the ultimate goal of life is to reproduce, why isn't a woman's womb perpetually ready to foster life? She goes on to argue that it is actually more energy efficient (calorie wise) to cycle. Not exactly what you were asking about, but I though it an interesting aside.

Tom said...

Thanks for an interesting comment. And yes, I know what you mean about Ms. Angier, she is an good writer, and has done some intriguing books on science, but does seem to have a bit of an axe to grind. In any case, I'll take a look at the book of hers that you cite.