Diversity in Sex Difference

 

Males and females of a species are often quite different, from their basic biochemistry to their color and size. These differences are adaptations to the very different lives that males and females live, namely, the very different way in which they reproduce. However, there is no general trend or pattern of sex differences that is universally true for all of the diversity of life. Rather, the diversity of life offers a diversity of sex differences, where sometime females are bigger and/or more colorful and sometimes males are bigger and/or more colorful.

This activity showcases the diversity of sex differences in the animal kingdom, and educates participants about the biological and ecological reasons for sex differences in specific examples. Sex differences are widespread but diverse, and similar explanations can be true for males or females depending on the species or group in question.

sex


Swedish summary:

Hanarna och honorna hos en art är ofta väldigt olika varandra, från biokemin inuti deras kroppar till deras färg och storlek. Dessa olikheter beror på anpassningar till de olika liv som hanarna och honorna lever, det vill säga de olika sätt som de bidrar till reproduktionen. Däremot så finns det inga mönster i hur de skiljer sig som stämmer för alla organismer. Ibland är det honan som är större och färggladare, och ibland är det hanen.

Den här aktiviteten visar mångfalden i könsskillnaderna i djurriket, och förklarar hur biologi och ekologi spelar in med specifika exempel. Skillnader mellan könen ser man i många arter, och ibland kan de till och med förklaras på samma sätt för två olika arter trots att könens roller är omvända.


 

Introduction

Males and females of a species are often quite different, from their basic biochemistry to their color and size. These differences are adaptations to the very different lives that males and females live, namely, the very different way in which they reproduce. However, there is no general trend or pattern of sex differences that is universally true for all of the diversity of life. Rather, the diversity of life offers a diversity of sex differences, where sometime females are bigger and/or more colorful and sometimes males are bigger and/or more colorful. This activity showcases the diversity of sex differences in the animal kingdom, and educates participants about the biological and ecological reasons for sex differences in specific examples. Sex differences are widespread but diverse, and similar explanations can be true for males or females depending on the species or group in question.

 

The activity

Participants will receive a sort of ‘treasure map’ upon entering. The map will indicate ~10 stations throughout the museum. The stations will be set up at specifically chosen male/female pairs of animal specimens that will be used as examples of certain types of sexual dimorphism (e.g. sex differences in size, color, etc.). The map will also have a pair of statements printed on it for each station: one true statement and one false statment regarding the sexual dimorphism of that species. The statement will describe the observable dimorphism and give a biological explanation for it. Participants will be able to look at the male/female pair of specimens and make an informed guess as to which statement is true. There will be a stamp chained to the station that participants should use to indicate their answers for each of the ~10 species, and they can bring their filled-in answer sheet/map to the booth to receive a reward (e.g. a piece of candy). A large poster version of a correctly filled-in map will be on display behind the booth so that participants can see if their answers were correct or not. We can offer further information for interested participants, and there can be QR codes at each station, as well as the booth, that link to further information about the species and about sexual dimorphism in general. The goal is to showcase the diversity of direction and magnitude of sex differences across the animal kingdom, and especially to show that identical statments about the ecological reason for a given sex difference can apply to females of one species and males of another… emphasizing that there are no universal trends/patterns to sex differences or their explanations. Sex differences are widespread but gender steryotypes are not a universal biological phenomenon–diversity is the only real trend.

 

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