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.
As she has a specal interest in evolution and biodiversity, she created the blog From so simple a beginning
Articles - samplesFrom algae to land plants (and vice versa) (Bionieuws, February 27, 2016; 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.