Female animals appear drab to avoid sexual harassment

London, March 18 (IANS) When compared to their male counterparts, female animals usually shun colour and ornamentation. According to an interesting study, the dull appearance by these females may be to protect themselves from unwanted male attention and resulting sexual harassment.

“We suggest that if female ornaments signalled their sexual quality, females could suffer increased sexual harassment by males and this could be especially costly to fitness,” said David Hosken, professor at the University of Exeter in Britain.

Previous research has suggested that females have stayed without ornamentation because of a greater need for camouflage or because increased ornamentation would affect fecundity.

The findings appear in the scientific journal Animal Behaviour.

In many species males are known to attract the sexual attention of females with distinctive plumage, markings or displays of some type.

However, females go to great lengths to avoid male sexual harassment and display themselves as unattractive, by disguising themselves as males, moving to areas where there are fewer males, using anti-aphrodisiacs and fighting off unwanted copulation.

“We are not suggesting that male harassment of attractive females is the only explanation for lack of sexual ornamentation in females but want to alert researchers to the idea that this could be a contributing factor,” added Hosken.

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