Meeting Abstract

S4-1  Sunday, Jan. 5 07:45 - 08:00  Introduction ORR, TJ*; HAYSSEN, V; New Mexico State University, Las Cruc; Smith College, Northampton, MA

This symposium is about reproductive biology from the female perspective, but what do we mean by the female perspective? Most obviously, since we have chosen female speakers, one meaning is that the female perspective is the view of female scientists. Our diverse speakers are from a range of academic ranks (post-docs to chaired professors) and study a range of animal taxa from insects to mammals. More importantly, we want to examine reproductive biology from the perspective of female organisms themselves. What happens when we examine social behavior, physiology, or ecology strictly from the viewpoint of females? In many cases the female-centric perspective will alter our prior interpretations. For example, with DNA fingerprinting, differences between genetic and behavioral mating systems became obvious. We realized that assessing parentage (the ultimate basis of categorizing mating systems) using male-mating strategies resulted in flawed conclusions; in fact, sperm selection leading to conception is more important than mating per se. This is an example of how behavioral ecology might change its interpretations if we examine systems from the female perspective. Another example comes from studies of whole-organism performance –whereby jumping, running, and swimming have been measured in males with a deliberate removal of females and the major facet of their physiology, i.e. reproduction. However, female biology may actually set the limits of performance given the extra weight and changes in body shape required for reproduction. For instance, new insights into metabolic ceilings arose from examining energy consumption during lactation. These changes in how we understand behavior and physiology are relevant across diverse taxa. Our speakers will continue the exploration of ways in which our framework shifts when we use a female perspective.