Thursday, April 04, 2013

Why flowers are like girls

If a pollinator such as a bee is very pleased with a flower he has been to, he will be especially on the prowl for other plants of the same species, because he knows they are likely to have the flowers he most wants. It thus stands to reason that the more his experience with the plant he visited first was pleasant to him, the more he will tend to land on the flowers of other plants of the species immediately after they open, before their nectar, etc., gets taken by another—his prior pleasant experience will cause him to be especially on the prowl for similar flowers. After a very pleasing flower experience, he will preferentially (more often) check out the flowers of the same species, so that he can get them right after they open, lest an interloper gets the treat before he does. Accordingly, the sooner a flower is landed on after opening, the more likely the pollinator came from a flower especially effective at encouraging insects to spread its pollen to other flowers, and thus the more likely the pollinator came from a plant especially effective at spreading its pollen thoroughly and efficiently. Of course, it is in the self-interest of a plant to be pollinated by pollen coding for a plant especially effective at spreading its pollen thoroughly and efficiently. If the female parts of a flower can especially select for pollen especially talented at penetrating freshly opened flowers, that's an advantage to the plant. By a plant having flowers especially delicate and full of the fragile characteristics more typical of flowers freshly opened, the flower can especially select for sperm in (genetically identical to the sperm) pollen tubes especially effective at penetrating youthful stigmas and styles, as serves the interest of the plant—such sperm will tend to code for flowers especially desired by pollinators. Indeed, if a pollen tube is especially effective at fertilizing freshly opened, delicate flowers, likely it is so because it evolved thus because so many of its ancestors had pollen tubes that especially needed to fertilize freshly-opened flowers, likely on account of the same ancestors being so much desired by bees, etc., as to cause the latter to especially be on the prowl for flowers of the same species, so as to be landed on so soon as they open.

On balance, gamete selection is even more important in plants than in animals. Plants have alternation of generations, alternating between a diploid sporophyte generation and a haploid gametophyte generation. In animals the haploid generation is produced directly from meiosis in the diploid generation, and is nothing more than a sperm or an egg, scarcely to be considered an organism. In plants, the product of the diploid organism is not directly eggs or sperms but rather spores—the products of meiosis are spores. These haploid spores are genetically identical to the eggs or sperm they will ultimately produce, but they mitotically grow into something multicellular and rather complex, the gametophyte, before sperms and eggs are produced. In mosses what the spores grow into, the gametophyte, is actually larger than the diploid generation, and is what is commonly recognized as the plant. In ferns, the gametophyte typically looks like a fingernail-sized plant that one can find by scrounging around wet places.

In flowering plants, the male gametophyte is the pollen grain, which contains two cells: a vegetative cell, which becomes the pollen tube that upon pollination burrows into the style to the embryo sac, and a generative cell contained in the vegetative cell that (typically after pollination) splits into two sperm cells (in flowering plants, the sperm cells don't have flagella) that undergo fertilization; all these cells are genetically identical. The female gametophyte is the embryo sac. The embryo sac most frequently contains seven cells. Three cells are located near the micropyle, the opening which the pollen tube breaks into antecedent to releasing its two sperm; one of these cells is the egg, the other two, the synergids, flank the egg like guardians. Three more cells, the antipodals, are located on the opposite end of the embryo sac, decaying without serving any obvious purpose. Finally, in the middle of the embryo sac is a large central cell that has two nuclei, the polar nuclei. What is strange about fertilization in most flowering plants is that it is a double fertilization. One sperm combines with the egg cell, becoming the embryo that grows into an adult plant. The other sperm combines with the cell containing the two polar nuclei to form a primary endosperm cell that is triploid; i.e., it contains three of each chromosome, only one of which is from the father; this cell typically divides mitotically to form the endosperm of the seed, which usually is only important in seed development and germination. Oftentimes the developing embryo obtains nutrient from the endosperm. For instance, in wheat seeds the embryo, which constitutes the wheat germ, develops into a wheat plant, absorbing when in the seed nutrients from the endosperm, which is the material that furnishes white flour and constitutes most of the seed.

Anyway, it is apparently quite clear that many genes of the pollen tubes are expressed haploidly, and so the characteristics of the pollen tube are determined at least in part by which particular genes the pollen grain has obtained from its parent. There presumably arises, therefore, a haploid competition between genes possessed by pollen tubes (which as mentioned are identical to the genes possessed by the genetically identical sperm within them). Genes that code for pollen tubes especially talented at penetrating newly opened flowers are what an insect-pollinated flowering plant most needs to be fertilized by, and so one would expect flowers, or at least the female parts of flowers, to tend especially to be delicate-looking, having physical characteristics similar to a flower that could only be freshly opened.

Haploid competition just in itself isn't necessarily beneficial. First of all, much haploid competition might arise between pollen grains coming from the same plant. To the extent haploid competition is typically of this sort—between haplotypes arising from the same plant—one would expect no direct benefit to a plant fertilized subsequent to this competition. True, a plant fertilized by a strong pollen tube may be more likely to win out in distant generations when pollen more related to it is competing with pollen less related to it. But more immediately, in the next generation, there will be competition between pollen produced by the child which is more related to the child's mother and pollen produced which is more related to the child's father; to succeed more in this latter competition, it is advantageous for the mother to have been fertilized by weak pollen tubes. As in animals, to the extent competition between gametes mainly involves competition between gametes produced by the same individual, there is no direct benefit to being fertilized by gametes having strong haploid chracteristics; indeed, as I have done, one can show mathematically that the two effects cancel out to the extent the differences in pollen haploid characteristics are small.

One advantage of haploid competition is that it reduces meiotic drive; i.e., if characteristics of sperm and eggs are determined by the diploid genome, there might be expected to arise genes which diploidly code for killing or hurting gametes that don't contain the genes, giving the genes advantages (such genes are known to exist in fruit flies) over their competitors. Over time these selfish genetic elements can lead to reduced fertility, and meaningful sperm competition between sperm from different individuals is probably the only way of preventing this sort of thing if indeed sperm development is determined diploidly. (In particular, if sperm development is essentially determined just diploidly in humans, a matter of controversy, this can give females a reason to be promiscuous, i.e., to have sex with several males at the same time to ensure the most fertile one succeeds. But I think sperm development in humans often is haploidly regulated, leading to meaningful intraejaculate sperm competition, and so I'd say female humans are by nature generally very hesitant to be promiscuous in this way.)

To really determine whether haploid competition between male gametes produced by an individual subsequently benefits another individual fertilized by one of these gametes, one must look at what diploid characteristics are likely to be selected for by the competition. Oftentimes one allele of a gene might be more fit than another when coding haploidly and less fit when coding diploidly. In fact, if haploid competition is general and always more or less selective of the same characteristics, one would expect this to be the typical situation because the situation allows for long-term stability in allele frequencies, and so is a situation that can last for a long time. On the other hand, if one allele is more fit than another both when coding haploidly and when coding diploidly, the more fit allele is likely to before long more-or-less completely displace the latter allele in the population (except possibly if the hybrid condition is more fit diploidly than either homozygous state); and of course if an allele is less fit in every way, it will probably die out fairly quickly. Anyway, if haploid competition is something that occurs generally, and if the haploid condition is not akin to the diploid condition (as is especially the case with plants like the flowering plants, which have relatively simple gametophytes), one would expect haploid fitness to be contrary to diploid fitness. The more natural selection selects for, all else equal, the less well it can select for any particular thing. It is no accident, presumably, that the majority of plants have evolved over the last few hundreds of millions of years to have sporophytes more complicated and substantial than the gametophytes; moreover, gametophytes no longer have to have the many characteristics necessary for surviving as an independent plant. In flowering plants, in particular, gametophytes are pampered, the female gametophyte developing in an ovule of its mother plant, and the male gametophyte having only to push its sperm through the style into the receptive ovary once it has landed on the stigma. Still, if the particulars of pollination suggest pollen from a particular plant is a certain way, more is going on than just competition between gametes which during pollination are generally better at fertilizing flowers than its competitors are and gametes which during pollination are generally worse at fertilizing flowers than its competitors are. In particular, if pollen lands on a flower right after it opens, there will be competition between pollen grains especially effective at fertilizing when they land on stigmas of just-opened flowers and pollen grains especially effective at fertilizing flowers when they land on stigmas of long-opened flowers; the former sort of pollen grain is more likely to help code for diploid plants whose flowers encourage pollinators to do what the plants need, and is thus what a plant more needs its egg to be fertilized by.

It is interesting to observe how double fertilization might encourage flowers that select for pollen especially effective at fertilizing newly opened flowers, resulting in a kind of race in plants to have flowers that are the most delicate and freshly-opened looking. As mentioned, if gamete selection wouldn't be expected to positively select at all for some diploid quality, gamete selection in fact will on balance negatively select for it, basically because it is a lot to expect something to code positively for both diploid and general haploid traits. Take having genes that code fitly for fully-developed seed endosperm. There is no immediately obvious reason why a pollinator landing on a certain type of flower is likely to be a pollinator that has come from a flower on a plant that as a seed had unusually fit endosperm. Let us in this paragraph assume that in fact there is no reason. In particular, if a bee lands on a flower that is freshly-opened, we shall assume that it doesn't really say anything whatsoever about whether the plant the bee came from had unusually fit endosperm as a seed. If a flower encourages meaningful haploid competition between the pollen tubes from the pollen grains that land on it, it would accordingly more tend to encourage fertilization by pollen grains that on balance have less fit endosperm. But on account of double fertilization, in most flowering plants the endosperm is only one-third coded for by the paternal genome. A plant doesn't suffer as much by encouraging gamete selection during its fertilization if the deleterious effects such selection is likely to have on the endosperm of its seeds is only 2/3 as important as it would be if endosperm were produced diploidly by cells having equal genetic material from both parents. Since about half the benefit of mating slightly more diploidly fit genetic material occurs from more successful children, and since the other half accrues later from more successful more distant descendants, one would expect on account of endosperm being coded triploidly about a 1/6 reduction in the harm from selecting for less fit endosperm that arises from encouraging gamete competition during fertilization. It's well, though, to look at the exceptions. A few angiosperms (i.e., flowering plants) possess endosperm that is equally coded for by both the maternal and paternal germ line. Most of these exceptions occur among the most basal angiosperms such as water lilies (Nymphaeales) and bay starvine (Austrobaileyales). Strangely, though, the most basal angiosperm, Amborella, has endosperm encoded more typical to how ordinary angiosperms are encoded (the egg sac apparently is 8-celled and 9-nucleate rather than 7-celled and 8-nucleate as is most common). Anyway, those exceptions are more-or-less where one might expect them, occuring very early in angiosperm development. Almost all the other cases where endosperm is encoded equally from both germ lines occur in the Onagraceae, the evening primrose family. This would be quite a blow to the theory, since that family contains many extremely delicate-looking and beautiful flowers like Gaura and Fuchsia. But this is a case where the exception helps to prove by the rule because as it turns out there is a very particular oddity about that family which could easily afford an explanation. Commonly in this family but in no other is the ability to form permanent structural heterozygotes, i.e., hybrids between different species or with a plant with translocated chromosomes in which the hybrids produce only similar hybrid offspring. The best I can understand it from what I have read of the literature available to me, the non-matching chromosomes form two connected rings rather than many pairs, producing organisms where chromosomes rather than pairing off come together in bundles making a pair of rings; with sufficient mismatch there can be no individual pairing but just two paired rings, each ring containing a member of each chromosome pair (I believe this is called a Renner complex), so in many ways the chromosomes behave like there is but one pair of chromosomes. A reasonable inference is that presumably the Onagraceae have some sort of higher approach to translocations, etc., and interspecies gene transfer that most other organisms lack, and a natural explanation for why a triploid endosperm is not present is that this higher approach somehow conflicts with chromosomes tripling up in endosperm, as wouldn't be at all surprising inasmuch as structurally the higher approach involves how the chromosomes line up with each other.

(I hope I haven't given too great an impression of my understanding what is going on with the Onagraceae—I'm a believer that finding the important truths of biology mostly involves understanding accepted biology at a basic level worthy of a smart high school student and then being extremely logical and occupied in making deductions from that, from observed phenomena (including one's own emotions and reflections), and from one's basic understandings of other topics, but I'd say what is going on with the Onagraceae would be an exception that involves much deeper study of biology than I or above average high school biology graduates have undertaken.)

But there is something more glaring that needs explaining. True, the most primitive flowering plant is believed to have had endosperm coded equally by the paternal and maternal genome. However, in non-flowering seed plants, i.e., gymnosperms, endosperm is coded (haploidly) just by the maternal genome. In non-flowering plants, that the haploid selection between male gametes tends to code for endosperm with inferior characteristics is of no signficance to the survival or reproductive fitness of a diploid plant that arises from such a gamete fertilizing an egg. To a plant fertilized by a male gamete coding for inferior endosperm, the disadvantage would be half what it would be if endosperm were coded half maternally and half paternally. Indeed, the immediate disadvantage of a seed with less fit endosperm would disappear entirely, whereas the equally significant belated disadvantage (arising from future generations having seeds with endosperm less fit on average) would be exactly what it otherwise would have been. One could do better than a 1/6 reduction from the harm of male gamete selection encouraging inferior endosperm—one could have a 1/2 reduction as in gymnosperms. If male gamete selection is indeed (as my theory of the significance of the delicacy of flowers suggests) more important in angiosperms than gymnosperms, How could flowering plants manage? Why wouldn't it be the conifers that have delicate flowers rather than cones so tough that sometimes they'll stay on a tree for decades? Is that gymnosperms lack flowers as injurious to my theory of the significance of the delicacy of flowers as getting hit on the head by a not-at-all-delicate 20-pound bunya-bunya cone could be to an unwary Australian?

Why is it the flowering plants that have the delicate flowers rather than the pine trees or some other group of plants that has endosperm coded haploidly by the maternally derived genome of the seed? I admit this question stymied me for about nine months. True, such an endosperm may not be what scientists view as the condition of the most primitive flowering plants, but considering that it's the state of gymnosperms it would be odd to think flowering plants wouldn't have evolved to be that way were it useful for them to be so. A satisfactory answer occurred to me a few weeks ago.

There are various functions to the seed that endosperm can play. It's most notable function is perhaps as a nutrient-storage tissue. But in some plants this storage role is not important; for instance, nutrient storage can occur mainly in a perisperm genetically identical to the mother plant of the seed. Similarly, the nutrients of the endosperm can attract birds, chipmunks, etc., to eat the seed, which could end up being a good thing for the plant because a few seeds might be swallowed whole or stored and then forgotten to sprout later. But in many plants, as in fruit, it is maternal material surrounding the seed which typically gives to animals macronutrients, the seed itself being dispersed (e.g., swallowed) without being digested.. Endosperm tissue can also play a role in regulating dormancy and germination; i.e., in deciding how and when the seed sprouts. This latter function would seem to be a probable cause for why endosperm is not identical to the maternal (diploid) tissue that surrounds the seed; indeed, were the endosperm to contain genetic material that is distinct from any that is contained in the embryo, evolution of proper sprouting behavior would be discouraged. Finally, and most importantly for our purposes, endosperm tissue is believed to be involved in obtaining nutrients from the mother plant. The role of extracting nutrients from the mother plant is important for our purposes because in fact one can easily imagine that an endosperm effective at extracting much rich nutrient from a young ovule may be entirely different from an endosperm better at extracting rich nutrient from an older ovule, e.g., an ovule fertilized when the flower containing it is already old. And if this imagining is true, then something extraordinary would happen. What's clear, on account of endosperm containing genetic material derived paternally from pollen, but not especially spectacular, is that pollen which fertilizes freshly opened flowers would of course tend to also tend to code for a (useful) ability to extract nutrients when in young ovules—organisms tend to evolve what is most useful for them, and if one trait tends to cause another trait to be useful, one would expect an association between them. But similarly, pollen coding for characteristics that tend to cause it to fertilize older flowers would be expected to be especially effective at extracting nutrients from older ovules, and so it is not as though the advantage for one kind of pollen would not be balanced by a different advantage in the pollen with opposite tendencies—at first glance there probably wouldn't seem to be anything spectacular going on. But there is something much more than this going on. A flowering plant typically produces many seeds. The seeds produced in young flowers that gain the right sort of nutrient will tend to have endosperm with DNA that codes for extracting much rich nutrient from the mother plant when in young ovules. And (at least in most flowering plants) two-thirds of this DNA comes from the mother plant. There is a competition among seeds, and the seeds that tend to do best will be those that especially contain the sort of DNA from the mother plant that codes for an ability to extract nutrient especially well when inside young ovules. But as we have seen, this sort of DNA will also tend to be that sort of DNA that codes for an ability to effectively fertilize young flowers, which be exactly the sort of DNA that it is best for a plant to be fertilized by. What's spectacular is that the competition between female gametophytes (in differing ovules) that occurs in the female plant will ensure that viable seeds from young flowers will not only tend to contain the more insect-attracting DNA from the father plant but also the more insect-attracting DNA from the mother plant. By endosperm having both maternally and paternally derived components, the flower characteristics that make insects go on the prowl for flowers of that species--characteristics that plants need in its flowers--are selected for not only by selection that occurs between pollen grains but also by selection that occurs between the embryo sacs. If endosperm were coded for merely from DNA derived maternally, as in gymnosperms, an endosperm especially effective at extracting nutrients when in young ovules would not be directly suggestive of a tendency to cause insects to especially go on the prowl for flowers of the same species—rather it would be suggestive of a tendency to produce flowers that when fertilized are quickly fertilized; the latter tendency does not seem especially impressive if impressive at all; e.g., it could be merely a sign of a plant with flowers that are so weak or vulnerable to being devoured by insect pests or rot as to not last long. By endosperm being coded for by genetic material of both maternal and paternal origin, aggregation of desirous traits causing effective insect pollination is presumably greatly magnified, as is obviously of great benefit to a plant species.

An interesting case is wind-pollinated flowers (which in angiosperms are technically flowers, but which don't tend to resemble flowers, and so often when the context is clear in non-technical discussions people don't consider them flowers). Pollen tube competition in any sort of flower, whether it be typically pollinated by wind or insects, would be expected to greatly increase not only aggregation of traits effective at fertilizing freshly-opened flowers but also aggregation of traits effective at fertilizing long-opened flowers. In wind pollinated flowers, what is likely impressive in a pollen is that it came from a long distance, which suggests the right sort of survival characteristics and impressive kite-like qualities allowing it to travel aloft great distances; it's also more useful from the prospect of obtaining new genetic combinations. And clearly if pollen comes from great distances it is more likely to arrive late. So whereas in insect pollinated flowers, the impressive pollen is that which lands on recently opened flowers, in wind pollinated flowers, the exact opposite probably tends to be the case; i.e., the impressive pollen is that which lands on long-opened flowers. This could explain why wind-pollinated flowers tend to not be delicate-looking or as though they are going to great lengths to be physically comparable to freshly-opened flowers; in fact, I suppose quite the contrary.

I should point out that another very relevant consideration involves seed dispersal. It is rather typical for gymnosperms to be long-lived. Moreover, their seeds mostly do not fall or travel far from the plant, whereas their pollen, being mostly wind-borne, can travel great distances. Such a plant is especially effective at forcing the creatures about it to behave towards its seeds in harmony with its desires. Suppose such a gymnosperm, say, a conifer, arises with a new tendency which tends to destroy the health of those animals who munch on its seeds sufficiently to make them not viable or which tends to give health benefits to those who swallow its seeds such as to be passed along in (nutrient-rich) dung. If long-lived, as typical, the conifer will have time to benefit by benefitting the animals that treat it correctly or harming the animals that tend to treat it incorrectly. Similarly, the descendants of the conifer will benefit as well from the selection of animals undertaken by its ancestor, but clearly the benefit will be greatest when the descent line is more maternal than through pollen. Why? Because seeds don't land as far from the mother tree as pollen lands from the father tree, and so in the former case the animals are more likely to be the same. The interesting point is that if the selective quality of the seed is contained in the endosperm, i.e., if there be a trait in half (the endosperm of) the seeds with the relevant selective quality, then all the progeny of the selective plant which possess seeds with the selective quality will be near the selective plant, the reason being that the endosperm is not coded for paternally. Thus, the extent to which conifers would be able to force animals to live in harmony with its seed-dispersal needs via endosperm characteristics would be less if endosperm were coded for partly paternally, since the effects on the animals would then be somewhat more spread out and hence diluted.

Anyway, considering all the evidence, a likely explanation for why flowers tend to be delicate-looking is that the more a flower physically resembles a freshly-opened flower, the more the flower will select for pollen that codes for flowers that especially tend to have what pollinator want (which makes pollinators spreading pollen from it tend to land on other flowers of the species right after the latter flowers open). It is interesting to observe that this situation would tend to amplify its significance on account of positive feedback. If a plant has very delicate flowers, that will tend to be the sort of plant in which delicacy of flower has helped select for what pollinators want (or else delicacy of flowers wouldn't have evolved). Such a plant tends to genetically aggregate (in fertilization events involving fertilization of freshly-opened flowers) the qualities pollinators most want, which must be expected to increase the speed and effectiveness with which traits desirable to pollinators would evolve in flowers. Accordingly, angiosperms having separated from gymnosperms for about 200 million years now, pollinators would be expected by now to have evolved to especially prefer species with delicate, beautiful flowers reminiscent of evanescence. This would increase further the tendency of delicacy to be involved in flowers. But the preference is actually presumably more than that. A flower could attract a pollinator by emitting something the pollinator wants but doesn't need. E.g., the flower could emit something that makes the pollinator high in a way that is unnaturally pleasant. (Indeed, I rather expect this is what cannibis does because I have heard that the high of cannibis is concentrated in its flower and that growers can get more "high" in their plant by making sure no pollen hits it, as if when the plant gets desperate, the plant emits more "high".) Obviously, this is a situation that isn't going to benefit the pollinator any more than the junkie. But if a flower is beautiful as opposed to some ugly weed appendage (as the marijuana "flower" rather seems to me from what I have seen on television or from photographs), well, the beauty is a sign of meaningful selection of sperm tubes suited to penetrating freshly-opened flowers. And selection of diploid traits indirectly through haploid selection is a kind of resurrecting in freshly-opened flowers the successes of its freshly-fertilized ancestors. Smearing out like so much pollen upon a petal the beneficial consequences upon natural selection of a flower having gotten fertilized at its fragile opening does spread the benefits from one generation to those of distant descendants. The rewards of youthful love of a flower in the here-and-now is but a multifaceted reflection of the pleasures more directly attributed to youthful flowers of generations long-since past.

A plant whose flowers evolve honestly by ever increasing the efficiency of the real rewards it gives its pollinators profits the most from having pretty, girl-like flowers, for then when a pollinator lands on youthful flower, the flower is not just reliving the pleasures freshly fertilized flowers experienced in the distant past. It is also experiencing a pleasure that is even greater now, because those past pleasures, the flower visits of ancient pasts, weren't just what the pollinators wanted, but what the pollinator needed. For a flower to forgo somewhat the extent to which the simple fact of whether it has attracted a pollinator determines its prospects in order to more be able to relive pleasures of past generations from pollinators distributing pollen as pollen was distributed most efficiently in times ago—this is more rewarding when what ago attracted, benefited (in comparison to what could most attract in the here-and-now). Where is the reward in being able to attract what no longer exists because your ancestors cared not for them but to take? Bees, etc., attracted thus suffered. They are dead and without descendants. Their wings but specks of slightest non-nothingness in piles of greater forest detritus. Pretty flowers, on the other hand, are especially likely to be pleasant in the most real sense—they are beautiful partly from being what pollinators need.

But the beauty of a flower transcends its usefulness to pollinators. To humans, pretty flowers are beautiful rather like girls. People tend to forget that they, too, have evolved. The wise observer observes not only perceptions from without, namely sensations, but also perceptions from within, namely reflections. I can't help thinking that if people but would look inside themselves they would see intuitively that, yes, pretty flowers are like girls. Unfortunately, for all the good in science there are but too many practitioners who feel that there is something admirable about ignoring feelings, etc., from being subjective or some such. Let there be no mistake about why people deride one's own subjective. The subjective is not derided because it be more suspect, but because people lie more about it, so there be no test of whether the subjective of an other is real other than tests that suggest the other has an honest character or whether one has a similar subjective. If you feel girls are like flowers, I suggest that is your common sense. If you feel girls are like flowers, it is incumbent upon you to understand why you feel that way, and if you don't bother, you are ignoring data, the data that you feel that way, and the data is the interior evidence that is the most certain data you can have about human nature. Any science that believes in ignoring most certain data is no science worth respecting, and scientists who do otherwise are idiotically unthoughtfully parroting dogma or lying because ambition causes them to excessively praise just those beliefs which they can most easily convince others as being true. Unfortunately, science is full of people who don't care so much about truth as about convincing the elites who distribute rewards that they have new truths they aren't lying about. It's easier to lie from subjective truth. Anyway, subjectively to me flowers are like girls, and I wouldn't be surprised if they are subjectively like that to you as well. I shall explain why in fact they really are like girls.

Sperm selection in flowers is quite analogous to sperm selection in humans. In particular, the sort of competition that occurs in a pollinated flower between pollen tubes all coming from pollen from the same plant is analogous to intraejaculate sperm selection, i.e., to the competition that occurs between the sperm of one ejaculate (as opposed to interejaculae sperm competition, which involves competition between sperm from several males in promiscuous females). The direct effect of a pollinated plant or non-promiscuous girl selecting for sperm that is more talented at fertilizing (during pollination or sex) is that the descendants created by the act of reproduction are more likely to be similarly talented at fertilizing. This selection implies a short-term disadvantage to the fertilized individual, because next-generation sperm from a child created by the fertilization will tend to be more successful if it contains much genetic material from its parental sperm rather than from its parental egg (and the egg unlike the pollen comes from the fertilized individual). But in subsequent generations, there will be an advantage, because in grandchildren and beyond, assuming no inbreeding, genes have alleles such that at most one of the two is descended from an original parent but not both, so there is no competition between the original parents. In fact, because of genetic linkage, a fit allele from the original father will benefit alleles of linked genes that happen to be from the original mother (as can happen if an odd number of crossings-over occurred between the two genes during meiosis occuring in the first generation subsequent to the original generation). The benefit in distant generations to being fertilized by sperm fit in intraejaculate sperm selection more or less exactly cancels the harm in the original generation, just as the case in plants vis-a-vis competition between pollen tubes. Accordingly, just as in plants, whether the haploid competition between male gametes from the same individual is beneficial depends on whether the characteristics of the reproductive act might be supposed to select for male gametes coding for desirous diploidcharacteristics.

When a young female has sex, her body may well select for totally different sperm than an older female would. Could such be an appropriate encouragement for young females to have sex when young, while still just girls, just as inspect pollinated flowers probably tend to benefit from being fertilized early? In girls more than flowers, I'd say it depends. If a male is deceptive, then since girls are easily deceived (compared with women), and since (or else he wouldn't be very much deceptive) he is not likely to be obviously deceptive, any sex he has with a girl is likely merely a result of having deceived her, and it is a strong disadvantage for a girl to have sex with him, and an even stronger disadvantage for her to have sex with him in a way that encourages intraejaculate sperm selection. Indeed, if a male deceives girls into sex, his ancestors who had sex with girls were likely also to have had sex with them by deceiving them. And it is a lame (and bad) trait to have had reproductive success by deception of the most deceivable; were such people what girls need to have sex with, those people wouldn't need to use deception. A girl definitely would not like to select for that sort of sperm. But though deceptions and a tendency to deceive mates are not things that in themselves are easy to judge (or they wouldn't exist), a tendency to be moral is something that is fairly easy to judge—if a moral nature were not something fairly easy to judge, there would be no advantage to being a moral person equal to the disadvantage of the sacrifice it entails and so there wouldn't be moral persons, the advantage of being a moral person being that fellow moral people will tend to love you unselfishly because they (rightly) judge you moral. Moreover, moral people, mainly dealing morally with the fellow moral people they most associate and mate with, do not have much occasion or ability to deceive. A very moral person might indeed be someone even a girl could feel confident in recognizing as a moral person, and accordingly, she could feel confident that he would not deceive her. If a girl wants to have sex with an obviously morally good male at a young age, this is strongly suggestive of her feeling so confident of his worth that she need not take time considering whether she might find one more beautiful or pleasant. He may be less desirable than what she unbiasedly thinks, but then, he not being deceptive, he may with similar expectation be even be more desirable. Moreover, his ancestors, likely sharing to a large degree his moral nature would also not be expected to have deceived girls into sex subsequent to having sex with girls. Accordingly, a girl selecting for that part of a good male's DNA especially effective at fertilizing young girls in all likelihood is selecting for the most beautiful and naturally pleasant part of his genome. Sure, it is disastrous for a girl to have sex and more particularly lustful sperm-selecting sex with a bad male. But this sort of thing, if government really believed in family values rather than forcing their own values on families, can be greatly prevented just by giving parents the power to veto the sexual relationships of their daughters that with parental permission would be permissible (as should be the case with even adolescent girls, in my opinion, but which is not). One of the main driving forces behind the evolution of morality is probably the tendency for girls to want sex with very morally good males, and for instraejaculate sperm selection in such situations to select for his best tendencies. By excessively restricting girls when young from having meaningful sex with good, beautiful males, either by outright prohibition or by ensuring young people are too poor to raise children, society is probably removing a significant fraction of the reward that females can obtain by having sex with virtuous males, as clearly could be very bad for the evolution of moral virtue. Also, society is thwarting tendencies that would speed up evolution in good people by lengthening the time period between generations in good people—again, this couldn't be good for evolution of higher moral traits. The interested reader may find further discussion of this phenomenon in previous blog posts and my online (and getting somewhat old) book, Exact Morality for Today.

Many people would seem to behave as they intuitively see a beautiful reproductive similarity between girls and flowers. At weddings there are flower girls, not flower grandmas. And most women very much want to be thought of as young, not as old, and so men on special occasions give their beloveds flowers. Actually, the symbolism might be a little more direct, since having sex with young females while having sex with an older female could make the male absorb girl-produced lust or even occasion sperm-mixing between the females that could increase the chances that the older female would be fertilized by a sperm especially effective at prospering and fertilizing in young females. Perhaps what at least some women would prefer to a dozen roses would be a dozen girls for their husband to have sex with while having sex with her, an obvious impossibility given our present laws. Oh well, perhaps giving a clear scientific account of all my revolutionary theories about the beautiful relation between girls and flowers could at least make me more worthy of attention than a gift of cut flowers, especially considering it is not good for flowers to get cut.

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