foto willy

Willy van Strien

science journalist


Being a science journalist, Willy van Strien writes news items and articles on biological and medical research in Dutch newspapers and magazines. Her main interests are evolution and biodiversity. She published a popular science book in Dutch on the evolution of animal reproductive behavior.


She created the blog From so simple a beginning



Articles - samples

From algae to land plants (and vice versa) (Bionieuws, February 27, 2016; translation)
New insights on early animal evolution (Bionieuws, March 29, 2014; translation)
Thanks to an innovative egg design, the insects populated the continents
(Leiden University, Faculty of Science, December 2013)
Small sand goby males rely on sneaking (Bionieuws, March 31, 2012; translation)
All in the family - the origin of eusociality (Bionieuws, October 15, 2011; translation)
Female fowl spoil quite some sperm (Bionieuws, September 17, 2011; translation)
Democracy in ants (Bionieuws, May 28, 2011; translation)
Pretty flamingo (Bionieuws, April 16, 2011; translation)
Revolt in an acorn - ant slaves (Bionieuws, September 18, 2010; translation)
The faeder identity - male types in ruffs (Bionieuws, June 26, 2010; translation)
Trustworthy biobanks - interview with Bartha Knoppers (Cicero, June 21, 2010; translation)
Better off without this gene? (Cicero, May 17, 2010; translation)

Popular science book

The title of the book – Penis Fencing Duels; the evolution of strategic sexual behavior in animals – refers to the behavior of particular marine flatworms. They are hermaphrodites, and when two individuals meet, typically both of them want to mate only in the male role. They then try to hit each other with their needle-shaped penises and deliver some sperm, while trying to prevent being hit. It is an example of bizarre sexual behavior, driven by a conflict of interests.
In this book, I describe recent research on the sexual and parental behavior of about thirty animal species that are thoroughly studied and exhibit peculiar behavior; most of them are well-known among people. It is clear from the examples that all sexual behavior, as odd as it may be, can be explained as strategies to maximize reproductive success. The interests of different parties (males and females, parents and offspring, brothers and sisters) are often in conflict – even in seemingly harmonious cooperating couples or smoothly running bee colonies –, and this drives the evolution of bizarre traits via sexual selection.
The chapters are ordered in five parts. First, I deal with the (mostly male) strategy to have as many offspring as possible. Second, the (often, but not always female) strategy to produce high quality offspring is described. Third, the strategies of parents are considered. Fourth, I tell about the interests of other relatives in extended families. And fifth, the double roles of hermaphrodites are under discussion.

Het Penisduel – en ander strategisch seksueel gedrag van dieren (‘Penis fencing duels – the evolution of strategic sexual behavior in animals’). KNNV Uitgeverij, Zeist, 2008. ISBN 978-90-5011-288-8.