Tag Archives: Trivers-Willard

Whitey Bulger Convicted, and the Trivers Willard Hypothesis

Whitey Bulger has finally been convicted of a small percentage of all the bad things he is said to have done. The Boston Globe has the details.

James J. “Whitey” Bulger, the notorious Boston gangster who rampaged through the city’s underworld for decades before slipping away from authorities and eluding a worldwide manhunt for more than 16 years, was convicted today in federal court of charges that will likely keep him in prison for the rest of his life.

Don’t count on that. Whitey has slipped from the clutches of justice several times before. He’ll probably make a break for it between the court house and the jail, and if not, he’ll break out by pretending to be laundry or something in a few weeks.

Anyway, I started making references to Whitey Bulger back when he was just … retiring … and I live in the Boston Area, because he provided me with a good analogy in teaching about behavioral biology. So, whenever Uncle Whitey gets in the news I like to repost that. So …. from an earlier post (which still refers to him as a fugitive) we have this ….


Thumbnail image for 0470656662.jpgThis may or may not be a recent photograph of fugitive Whitey (James) Bulger of Boston’s Winter Hill Gang. Most of you won’t know who Whitey Bulger is. He is actually on the FBI’s ten most wanted list. He may have been spotted in Italy last Spring, and the FBI is just now asking for assistance from anyone who knows where he might be. (That’s not gonna work.)

Whitey was top dog in Boston’s Winter Hill gang. His brother was a Senator for the Commwealth of Massachusetts, and served as Senate President for several years.

It is said that Whitey was an FBI informant, and that his handler, FBI Special Agent John Connolly, tipped Whitey off that he was about to be indicted on racketeering charges. No problem. Whitey had left stashes of cash in safe deposit boxes all around the world, in preparation for the day he had to go on the lam. So he took off in 1995, and the FBI has not been able to catch up. Special Agent Connolly is pulling a ten year vacation in the stir.

I remember when Whitey disappeared, and ever since then, I’ve used him almost annually in lecture material describing the Trivers-Willard hypothesis. It goes like this:

Thumbnail image for 0470656662.jpgThis may or may not be a recent photograph of Robert Trivers, of the Trivers-Willard Hypothesis. The Trivers-Willard model (I prefer to call it a “model” rather than a “hypothesis” because it is not specific enough to really be a hypothesis … it’s a model that generates lots of hypotheses) states that selection should favor the ability to differentially bias investment in offspring by sex if the two sexes have differential variances in reproductive success, and if there is any way to predict offspring rank. That’s a bit thick, so it requires some examples and further explanation. Maybe a story about a mobster would help..

OK, so an example: Red deer (also known as Elk) give birth to one offspring (max) per year. Males compete for access to or to be chosen by females. So, only a small percentage of male red deer mate in a given year, a significant percentage may never mate at all, and a very small percentage sire many many little red deer. Male red deer have a high variance in reproductive success. If you tried to predict how many offspring a given randomly chosen male would have, knowing nothing at all, your best guess would be the average number of offspring red deer have in an average lifetime. But you would be wrong almost every time because the actual number is highly variable. Male red deer have high variance in RS.

Females, on the other hand, have a pretty standard number of offspring. There is not much competition among them, they can always find a male to mate with, etc. If you needed to guess how many offspring a particular randomly chosen female red deer would have in a life time, you could guess the average, and you would be right on or very close. Female red deer have low variance in RS.

So, male and female red deer have differential variance in RS. Males high, females low.

If a female red deer could somehow “predict” the likelihood of her offspring getting to mate, i.e., if she could tell if any offspring she had in the present year (male or female) would be average vs. high ranking, then selection should favor the evolution of a mechanism to actually give birth to the appropriate sex offspring (thus biasing investment in one sex or the other). It turns out that she can. A female red deer that is herself average or lower-quality (thin, ill, injured) is likely to give birth to an offspring that will be either low ranking or average. But if the mother-to-be red deer is high ranking, she is likely to give birth to an individual who will grow up to be high ranking.

Under these conditions, she should have a female offspring if she’s average or low ranking, but a male if she’s high ranking. And that, it turns out, is what red deer actually do.

That should be clear. But in case it isn’t, let’s take it down do real life, and bring in the gangsters.

You check the mail this afternoon, and there is a letter from a law firm you have never heard of. It says that your Great Aunt Tillie (whom you’ve also never heard of) just died, and left you with $1,000 in her will. The check is enclosed.

Thumbnail image for 0470656662.jpgThis may or may not be a recent photograph of a male red deer. Holy crap. Found money! What are you going to do with it? So you and your close advisors (your roommates, your cat, etc.) discuss it and you narrow it down to two choices. Choice A and Choice B.

Choice A is to go to your broker and buy $1000 worth of a nice, relatively safe mutual fund. The fund will buy and sell reliable blue chip stocks, thus spreading the risk over several companies, and over time you can expect to get a return of 50 bucks a years, easy.

Choice B is to buy 1000 one dollar lottery tickets. Your chances of winning are slim, but if you do, you will win 87 million dollars.

So, what do you do? The obvious sane choice is to buy the mutual fund.

But what if your cousin is Whitey Bulger? Whitey Bulger, as head of the Winter Hill Gang, is said to have owned the director of the Commonwealth Lottery agency.The connection between Whitey Bulger and the Lottery has never been proven. They don’t have a shred of evidence. He was, however, indicted for 21 counts of RICO-Murder. It is said that one of the things that tipped off authorities about this is that some of his relatives were winning the lottery a little more often than they should have. So, say your cousin is Whitey Bulger, and last time you saw him (at a family wedding) he told you … “hey, if you ever want to take a “chance” on the lottery, let me know … I can make that work for you…”

So now, you have two choices.

Choice A: Invest in a mutual fund and gain a return of 50 bucks a year (that’s dollars, not elk); and

Choice B: Buy 1000 PowerBall tickets and have a great deal of certainty of winning 87 million dollars.

What would you do?

In case it isn’t already clear. the baby male elk is a lottery ticket, the baby female elk is a mutual fund, but the female can guess pretty accurately if the lotter ticket (male offspring) will pay off. Because the elk’s cousin is Whitey Bulger. See?

Tiger Woods has gone too far.

I did not get on the Tiger Hating bandwagon when it was revealed that he had a wife and 19 girlfriends. First, I’m sure they were all having a great time at some point. Second, I can see where his wife would be pissed off but she did marry a golfer after all. What else was she expecting???? Finally, there’s like a billion people in this world whose children just died or will soon die of some preventable disease and Tiger Woods, his wife and his girlfriends don’t have a problem like that, so boo hoo.

I was unfazed by the big maneno over the car crash. Again, “first world problems” of the rich and famous, especially golfers, do not impress me. It is a bit more annoying that he has golfed like a Third Rate Hack for the entire golf season, as well as the pre-season and post season.1 But since I could care less (or not) about golf, then, well, I couldn’t care less about that.

But now, Tiger Woods has gone to far. He spit on the green.

Watch:
Continue reading Tiger Woods has gone too far.

The Natural Basis for Inequality of the Sexes

Is the Natural World a valid source of guidance for our behavior, morals, ethics, and other more mundane areas of thought such as how to build an airplane and what to eat for breakfast?1 When it comes to airplanes, you’d better be a servant to the rules of nature (such as gravity) or the airplane will go splat. When it comes to breakfast, it has been shown that knowing about our evolutionary history can be a more efficacious guide to good nutrition than the research employed by the FDA, but you can live without this approach and following FDA guidelines will not do you in. A naturalistic approach can work when it comes to behavior too, but there are consequences. You or someone you love would probably not like the consequences.
Continue reading The Natural Basis for Inequality of the Sexes

Stealing Genes and Hypergyny

This post was originally titled “Mail Order Brides and Hypergyny.” I was prompted to revisit the post because it received a a rather astonishing comment that I chose not to allow, but I did post it on my Facebook page where any attention it would receive would be from the thoughtful people that make up my Facebook community rather than just anybody out there on the Internet. Also, I recently received a complaint from a reader that Scienceblogs.com has been showing a lot of ads for “mail order brides,” and this post was originally partly a response to that.

I should also mention that in the years between 2009 and 2014 it is possible that the term “mail order brides” has been legitimately problematized. I don’t know that it has, it just seems like it must have been. For example, Wikipedia says “The term “mail-order bride” is both criticized by owners (and customers) of international marriage agencies and used by them as an easily recognizable term.[2] It has been pointed out that there is a discrepancy between how international adoptions are regarded (“saving a child”) and how international marriages are regarded (“buying a wife”).” citing Lilith, Ryiah (2000–2001), Buying a Wife but Saving a Child: A Deconstruction of Popular Rhetoric and Legal Analysis of Mail-Order Brides and Intercountry Adoptions 9, Buff. Women’s L.J., p. 225F Schaeffer-Grabiel (2005), When the mail-order bride industry shifted from using a magazine. If you have any comments on that please leave them below.

Original Post, Mail Order Brides and Hypergyny:

Seymour had a mail order bride and he was very proud. Seymour was a night watchman that I got to know because I was forever lurking around at night, passing through alarmed doors and making a nuisance of myself and, usually, keeping just one step ahead of Seymour, who’s main objective in life was to find a reason to throw me out of the building. The one time he actually had the drop on me, found me without ID, with no instructions that people would be working late in the lab, on a weekend that people were not supposed to be in the building because of work being done on the fire alarm system, he made his move and told me to get out or I’d be arrested.

I had no choice.

I engaged in a conversation with Seymour, which no one had ever done before, and after a half hour he went way forgetting that his main goal in life was to throw me out of the building. But in the mean time, I learned about his mail order bride. From Korea.

I’ve noticed that Scienceblogs.com has been running ads for hot Russian mail order brides. These ads are rather funny on the surface; They seem to be parodies of such things that they represent. But if you click on one (and I certainly did … expecting to end up at The Onion) one learns that this is the real thing. These are real ads for real Russian women who really want to marry you. If you are Seymour.

I’ve told you before that I mostly avoid commenting on the advertisers for Scienceblogs.com. Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil. One of the most evil corporations on the planet is one of our sponsors, and no one ever seems to notice or complain. My blog is editorially independent (as are all the other scienceblogs.com blogs) and I am free, if I choose, to blog against the big evil corporation, and in fact, have done so to a limited extent.

At first, I found it rather shocking that none of my fellow Sblings seem to be blogging about the mail order bride ads. Then I realized that they must all be using ad blockers.

For my part, as you may have noticed, almost everything I encounter lately seems to remind me of a story from the Congo. (I wonder why that is?) So I can tell you a little about hypergyny in the Congo.

Let’s get two things straight:

1) Mail order brides are participating in hypergyny. Hypergyny is where females (gynos) marry “up” (hyper).

2) You will see the term “hypergamy” used and that is simply incorrect. There can be no such thing as hypergamy as a practice because that means everybody marries up. How would that work? The term is “hypergyny.”1

Hypergyny can occur in a lot of different cultural systems, and in fact wherever there is a) differential wealth and b) males tend to control big hunks of that wealth and the associated power (and no, it is NOT all about power … wealth and power are historically interchangeable enough that we should be cautious about making such distinctions) there will be hypergyny because there will be women who either choose it or are forced into it. In this form, and exploiting the ongoing conversations about rape, hypergyny can be understood by reference to the sexual interactions between allied forces liberating Europe from the Nazis and the local women. In Italy, Allied men tended to rape the women. In France, the women seemed happy to sleep with the men. For food. The difference? Well, lots of things were different, but to oversimplify somewhat, there was a big difference in how much people were starving at that particular moment between Italy and France.

Hypergyny is sleeping with the man over a longer term. For food and everything.

The most benign form of hypergyny of which I am aware (not counting mail order brides …. I’m not sure where I want to put that phenomenon on any scale of severity) is that found among the Efe Pygmies (and other Pygmies) in Central Africa.

Here, there are two integrated but distinct cultural entities: Villagers and Foragers. The Villagers are not Efe. They may be Bantu or Central Sudanic speakers (where I worked, they were Central Sudanic Lese). Villagers are farmers who often hunt, Efe are both foragers and farm laborers. The fact that there are material overlaps between the cultures does not make these cultures overlapping in all ways, or hard to distinguish, or flexible in membership. They are as solidly different as any caste might be.

The rules: Any Villager man and woman can marry. Any Forager man and woman can marry. Any man may have more than one wife.

A Villager woman can never marry a Forager man, but a Forager woman may marry a Villager man.

Often, but by no means always, the Forager woman who marries a Villager man is a second (or maybe even third) wife of that man, in a polygynous marriage.

If a Forager woman marries a Villager man, they live in the village as villagers. The woman takes on the cultural trappings of the village much more than other Forager women do. The children are Villagers. If the woman leaves her husband and goes back to the forest, she can not take the children with her. They remain as villagers.

The women can decide to do this or not. Their decision is usually a matter of personal lifestyle preference. The forest means freedoms not available in the village and you get to go camping all the time, and there are rich cultural traditions that live mainly in the forest, and that is where your family is. In the villages, you get a roof that will hardly ever leak.

One of the effects of this system is that men among the Foragers marry on average quite late owing to the a shortage of women.

In this way, there is a slow and steady gene flow from Forager groups to Villager groups, which led me to propose some years ago the Gene Stealing hypothesis. The relationship I describe here occurs in many different places and times. It seems to occur more often in tropical regions, and it seems to occur virtually all the time where the indigenous group (in this case the Forager) is hypergynous to the invading group (in this case the Villagers, who moved into the area hundreds of years ago).

The invading group is not adapted to local disease to the extent that the indigenous group is. But they can ensure that among their children there will be an elevated rate of such adaptation, by coming up with this pattern. This works much better than just killing off the locals or driving them out. You take their genes but keep them distinct as a locally adapted specialist group.

Indeed, there is evidence that something like this may have happened in the middle east with the Natufian culture, and I’ve wondered about the relationship between Modern Humans and Neanderthals in this regard.

I know, I know, that is a long way from pictures of Hot Russian Babes that may or may not be in the right sidebar.

Or maybe not….

______________________-
1There is a way in which hypergamy, which is widely used much to my annoyance, makes sense: If you have hypergyny and hyperandry, then the two together could be hypergamy, much like polyandry and polygyny are polygamy. But that is not what is going on with these terms.

Finches Determine Sex of Offspring

As you know if you read my blog, Trivers Willard is an important theoretical construct which has been tested numerous times. TW works in some species, not in others, and overall, that should be predictable (accroding to TW).

It turns out that finches control the sex of their offspring, and do so in a way that TW would predict, apparently. There is a paper in Science that I’ll probably eventually get to writing up for you, and in the mean time, here’s a quick news report from Scientific American.

See if you can figure out how Trivers Willard is working here, and why the important theoretical aspect of this research is glossed in this news report.

Sex Ratio Bias in India

Sometimes boys are worth more, sometimes girls are worth more. In an evolutionary sense. Or, more correctly, the value of a certain sex … as an offspring … can be measured in fitness terms. Fisher noted this and hypothesized this was the explanation for the 50-50 sex ratio we usually see. As one sex becomes more rare, it becomes more valuable, and thus parents (mothers, perhaps, usually) bias towards that sex. Then the disparity goes away and thus the differential value goes away.Of course, the truth is that we don’t actually see the 50-50 sex ratio all the time … many species of organisms have a highly biased sex ratio. Many have a highly biased ratio in adults, much more biased than in offspring. This sort of thing varies quite a bit. But what about humans, and what about the report that Indian girl-boy ratios at ‘all-time low’ … Continue reading Sex Ratio Bias in India

Why is There no Birth Control Pill for Men?

i-fc0baa42c324cefa8495fdb0044234b2-dice.jpg Why is there no Birth Control Pill for men?This latest “Ask a ScienceBlogger” question will certainly engender a wide range of responses from the Scienceblogs.com team. Answers may address physiology, endocrinology, pharmacology, economics, and other areas of scientific thinking and practice. The answer I’d like to propose can be summed up in two closely linked words pilfered from the question itself: Continue reading Why is There no Birth Control Pill for Men?

Macaque Mothers Favor Their Sons

Blogging on Peer-Reviewed Research

The Trivers Willard Hypothesis predicts that under certain conditions, individuals will bias their investment in offspring differently depending on the sex of the offspring. It is believed that this can be as extreme as infanticide or as subtle as providing different amounts of breast milk.

A new study by Katherine HInde finds that macaques may do this. However, I think this may be counterintuitive.

Continue reading Macaque Mothers Favor Their Sons

Whitey Bulger and the Evolution of Sex Bias in Investment in Offspring

imageMost of you won’t know who Whitey Bulger is. He is actually on the FBI’s ten most wanted list. He may have been spotted in Italy last Spring, and the FBI is just now asking for assistance from anyone who knows where he might be. (That’s not gonna work.)Whitey was top dog in Boston’s Winter Hill gang. His brother was a Senator for the Commwealth of Massachusetts, and served as Senate President for several years.It is said that Whitey was an FBI informant, and that his handler, FBI Special Agent John Connolly, tipped Whitey off that he was about to be indicted on racketeering charges. No problem. Whitey had left stashes of cash in safe deposit boxes all around the world, in preparation for the day he had to go on the lam. So he took off in 1995, and the FBI has not been able to catch up. Special Agent Connolly is pulling a ten year vacation in the stir.I remember when Whitey disappeared, and ever since then, I’ve used him almost annually in lecture material describing the Trivers-Willard hypothesis. It goes like this: Continue reading Whitey Bulger and the Evolution of Sex Bias in Investment in Offspring