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The evolution of female promiscuity - a lecture by Dr Olivia Judson

For immediate use
Friday 14 November 2003

Males are natural philanderers, trying to seduce every woman in sight while females are naturally chaste, more interested in having babies than in having sex. Right? Dr Olivia Judson debunks this 'general law' of nature in a lecture later this month.

Speaking to Friends and alumni of Imperial College London, Dr Judson that is a Research Fellow in the Department of Biological Sciences, will show girls in most species, given half a chance, will leap into bed with another guy rather than keep the home fires burning.

Drawing on material from her recent book 'Dr Tatiana's Sex Advice to All Creation', Dr Judson will review the historical background of why females were not expected to have, or gain from having, many lovers and go on to show how we discovered this expectation was wrong.

"We first came up with the notion that 'men are cads and women are saints' based on the behaviour of the humble fruit fly but since the advent of DNA testing in the 1980s, biologists have been able to show who is having whose children," explains Dr Judson. "They discovered something astonishing, something that no one had predicted. Namely that, from stick insects to chimpanzees, females are hardly ever faithful.

"More surprising, in species after species rampant promiscuity is no malfunction. Rather, females benefit from it. To pick a few at random, female rabbits and Gunnison prairie dogs show higher rates of conception if they mate with several partners while they are in heat. The female sand lizard hatches out more eggs the more lovers she's had."

"This result, which came as a surprise to evolutionary biologists, has forced a complete rethinking of our understanding of mating systems and of male-female relations."

The lecture will take place on Wednesday 19 November 2003 at 19.00 Sir Alexander Fleming Building, Imperial College London, South Kensington campus. Tickets are UKP 25, and concessions are available.

For more information and to book:

For further information, please contact:

Office of Alumni and Development
Imperial College London
Tel: +44 (0)20 7594 6138

Judith H Moore
Imperial College London Press Office
Tel: +44 (0)20 7594 6702
Mobile: +44 (0)7803 886 248

Notes to editors

Olivia Judson is an evolutionary biologist and award-winning science journalist. She received her doctorate in biological sciences from Oxford University before joining the staff of The Economist, where she wrote about biology and medicine. She is presently a research fellow at Imperial College in London.

About Imperial College London
Consistently rated in the top three UK university institutions, Imperial College London is a world leading science-based university whose reputation for excellence in teaching and research attracts students (10,000) and staff (5,000) of the highest international quality. Innovative research at the College explores the interface between science, medicine, engineering and management and delivers practical solutions that enhance the quality of life and the environment - underpinned by a dynamic enterprise culture.