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A Taste for the Beautiful
A Taste for the Beautiful: The Evolution of Attraction by Michael J. Ryan (Author)
Princeton University | English | 2018 | ISBN-10: 0691167265 | 208 pages | PDF | 17.83 MB

From one of the world's leading authorities on animal behavior, the astonishing story of how the female brain drives the evolution of beauty in animals and humans


Darwin developed the theory of sexual selection to explain why the animal world abounds in stunning beauty, from the brilliant colors of butterflies and fishes to the songs of birds and frogs. He argued that animals have "a taste for the beautiful" that drives their potential mates to evolve features that make them more sexually attractive and reproductively successful. But if Darwin explained why sexual beauty evolved in animals, he struggled to understand how. In A Taste for the Beautiful, Michael Ryan, one of the world's leading authorities on animal behavior, tells the remarkable story of how he and other scientists have taken up where Darwin left off and transformed our understanding of sexual selection, shedding new light on human behavior in the process.
Drawing on cutting-edge work in neuroscience and evolutionary biology, as well as his own important studies of the tiny T?ngara frog deep in the jungles of Panama, Ryan explores the key questions: Why do animals perceive certain traits as beautiful and others not? Do animals have an inherent sexual aesthetic and, if so, where is it rooted? Ryan argues that the answers to these questions lie in the brain?particularly of females, who act as biological puppeteers, spurring the development of beautiful traits in males. This theory of how sexual beauty evolves explains its astonishing diversity and provides new insights about the degree to which our own perception of beauty resembles that of other animals.
Vividly written and filled with fascinating stories, A Taste for the Beautiful will change how you think about beauty and attraction.
Review
"A delightful and enlightening review of current laboratory and field research into the aesthetic worlds of dozens of species. . . . If there's a lesson to be learned from Ryan's survey of sexual aesthetics, it's that each species perceives the world through a uniquely tuned array of senses with a unique evolutionary history. Put succinctly, romance among the birds and the bees has one thing in common with romance between men and women . . . It's complicated."-Laurence A. Marschall, Natural History
"The author's work with frogs launched a lifetime interest in discovering how beauty is found not just in animals' calls, but in the scents they give off and the colors they show. He argues that certain domains in the brain help determine what is perceived as beautiful. . . . Small, uncaptioned, black-and-white illustrations open each chapter, and what does come through clearly is the diversity of beauty-and the diversity of sexual behavior."-Kirkus Reviews
"Ryan works hard to write for general readers, and the narrative is replete with entertaining stories of the sexual marketplace that we and the rest of the animal world inhabit."-Kirkus Reviews
"In this appealing book, Ryan, professor of zoology at University of Texas, investigates the potential for a scientific understanding of what makes some biological traits sexually attractive. . . . Ryan leads a thoughtful and enlightening tour of brain function across an array of animals, focusing on three senses: sight, sound, and smell. In each case he presents current research, some of which is his own, detailing the nature of experimental design and the excitement of gaining new insights while discussing what remains unknown. . . . Ryan offers much to enjoy in his provocative book."-Publishers Weekly
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