Sexual Selection in the Wodaabe Tribe

Perhaps human aesthetics emerged through runaway sexual selection, with aesthetic tastes evolving as part of female mate choice. In this view, some female hominids just happened to have certain tastes concerning male ornaments. The artists best able to fulfill these tastes inseminated more aesthetic groupies and sired more offspring, who inherited both their artistic talent and their mothers' aesthetic tastes.

Something like this still happens among the Wodaabe people (also known as the Bororo), cattle-herding nomads who live in the deserts of Nigeria and Niger. At annual geere wol festivals, hundreds of people gather, and the young men spend hours painting their faces and ornamenting their bodies. The men also dance vigorously for seven full nights, showing off their health and endurance. Towards the end of the week-long ceremony, the men line up and display their beauty and charm to the young women. Each woman invites the man she finds most attractive for a sexual encounter. Wodaabe women usually prefer the tallest men with the whitest teeth, the largest eyes, the straightest nose, the most elaborate body-painting, and the most creative ornamentation. As a result, Wodaabe men have evolved to be significantly taller, white-toothed, larger-eyed, straighter-nosed, and better at self-decoration than men of neighboring tribes. This divergence probably happened within the last few hundred or few thousand years, illustrating runaway's speed. Journalists who know nothing of sexual selection often comment on the "reversal of sex roles" in Wodaabe beauty contests compared to European and American counterparts. But biologically, the Wodaabe are behaving perfectly normally, with males displaying and females choosing. The Miss America contests are the unusual ones.


As a result of their mating rituals, the men have diverged phenotypically from those of neighboring tribes.

Folksonomies: evolution sexual selection evolutionary divergence

/finance/investing/stocks (0.577311)
/travel/tourist destinations/africa (0.577051)
/society/crime/personal offense/assault (0.571568)

runaway sexual selection (0.943235 (neutral:0.000000)), female mate choice (0.913026 (positive:0.522700)), annual geere wol (0.886887 (neutral:0.000000)), Miss America contests (0.820409 (negative:-0.432555)), Wodaabe beauty contests (0.806182 (neutral:0.000000)), aesthetic tastes (0.806033 (positive:0.522700)), certain tastes (0.757333 (neutral:0.000000)), aesthetic groupies (0.727391 (positive:0.496692)), aesthetic tastes. (0.699462 (positive:0.509962)), female hominids (0.691517 (neutral:0.000000)), human aesthetics (0.688566 (neutral:0.000000)), male ornaments (0.682935 (neutral:0.000000)), cattle-herding nomads (0.666765 (neutral:0.000000)), tallest men (0.663835 (neutral:0.000000)), Wodaabe people (0.662514 (negative:-0.247882)), young men (0.657107 (neutral:0.000000)), neighboring tribes. (0.654569 (neutral:0.000000)), week-long ceremony (0.654340 (positive:0.518033)), creative ornamentation (0.653586 (positive:0.581643)), artistic talent (0.652974 (positive:0.346866)), elaborate body-painting (0.648864 (neutral:0.000000)), Wodaabe men (0.648074 (neutral:0.000000)), whitest teeth (0.643281 (neutral:0.000000)), straightest nose (0.642049 (negative:-0.364164)), sexual encounter (0.641834 (positive:0.524476)), American counterparts (0.640907 (neutral:0.000000)), mating rituals (0.639832 (negative:-0.432555)), largest eyes (0.635701 (neutral:0.000000)), young women (0.632249 (positive:0.692864)), sex roles (0.625919 (negative:-0.313200))

Wodaabe:City (0.904491 (negative:-0.247882)), Nigeria:Country (0.517922 (neutral:0.000000)), Niger:StateOrCounty (0.509604 (neutral:0.000000)), America:Continent (0.475935 (negative:-0.432555)), thousand years:Quantity (0.475935 (neutral:0.000000))

Aesthetics (0.954895): dbpedia | freebase
Sex (0.909990): dbpedia | freebase
Male (0.875997): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Sexual selection (0.845801): dbpedia | freebase | yago
Gender (0.832135): dbpedia | freebase
Female (0.781423): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Woman (0.692530): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Beauty (0.611497): dbpedia | freebase

 The Mating Mind
Books, Brochures, and Chapters>Book:  Miller, Geoffrey (2011-12-21), The Mating Mind, Random House Digital, Inc., Retrieved on 2013-06-24
  • Source Material []
  • Folksonomies: evolution science sexual selection