A Taste for the Beautiful

I am a scientist. This occupation affords me the opportunity to try to understand a small part of the natural world. I am also a professor. This occupation allows me to explain to others my findings in the context of the fields in which I work, animal behavior and evolution.

My audience is usually college students and other scientists, although I often present lectures to a more general audience and quite frequently explain what I do to friends and family who do not have a background in science.

I usually find that regardless of their background, many folks are interested in these stories of how sexual beauty plays out in nature and how our experiments in the laboratory give us insights into how and why sexual beauty evolved. My purpose in writing this book is to share these stories of sexual beauty, some from my research but mostly from others, with a much wider audience.

I owe a huge debt of gratitude to a large number of people. Marc Hauser first suggested that I write this book, and he has been a tough and constructive critic throughout all stages of its preparation. A stay as a Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study (WIKO) in Berlin afforded me the opportunity to plan this book, and during the planning stage I benefited greatly from the feedback of Karin Akre; Robert Trivers; Idelle Cooper; Doug Emlen; Eric Lupfer, my agent at William Morris Enterprises; and Alison Kalett, my editor at Princeton University Press. Marc Hauser and Idelle Cooper read the entire manuscript, and Alison Kalett and Karin Akre did the same and also provided detailed editorial comments.