Sexually dimorphic behaviors. Academic Article uri icon

abstract

  • Sex differences in behavior are the result of natural and sexual selection. The dimorphic classes of behavior described here, courtship, copulatory, and parental behaviors, reflect both kinds of evolutionary selective pressures. We can further distinguish two kinds of mechanisms that produce differences in male and female behaviors. In one, both sexes can perform a behavior but one does not because of sex differences in the external stimuli or the endocrine milieu. Maternal behavior in rodents falls into this category, as do certain other reproductive behaviors. In the other, the sensory, CNS, or motor components that produce behaviors are different in males and females. Many courtship and copulatory behaviors are in this category. I have considered some cellular mechanisms that generate sex differences in behavioral effector neurons, including sensitivity to hormones, cell number, and synaptic connectivity. A common feature of many such systems is a degree of developmental arrest: sexually dimorphic, hormone-sensitive neurons or muscles are immature at stages when other cells have completed differentiation. The cellular and molecular processes whereby hormones harness the developmental programs of behavioral effector cells remain largely unknown and are the focus of active investigation.

publication date

  • 1988