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Outdoors: Leap Day Selectivity

The ludicrous plot line of the Gilbert and Sullivan operetta, "The Pirates of Penzance," is based on the phenomenon of Leap Year.

The hero, duty-obsessed 21-year-old Fredric, believed he was to be released from his apprenticeship to a band of kind-hearted pirates when he caught the attention (it was love at first sight) of Mabel, one of the daughters of the Major-General.

But alas, Fredric was born on February 29 and his apprenticeship was to remain in force until his 21st birthday.

This meant that he had 63 years to wait before he was free to marry.

Mabel made her decision! She vowed she will wait, even though “it seems so long.”

Traditionally, when it comes to marriage, the male human does the asking, and the female human says “yes” or “no”.

In the animal kingdom, the same pattern—he makes the advances, she assesses him. Researchers believe that the female decides because she has more to lose from a bad mating.

When it comes to species survival, the act of mating is the most important event in an animal's life, for it is the method in which genes are transmitted to the next generation.

A male can mate repeatedly during his lifetime so he is not significantly affected by a bad mating.

A female has fewer chances of reproduction.

A mammal can carry only so many offspring. Other females can lay only a limited number of eggs.

Because a bad mating could ruin her chances of reproducing, the female has to be selective.

She has to find the best male available to father her offspring.

According to a very old Irish legend, women are allowed to propose on Leap Day, February 29.

Apparently, some woman actually do propose on Leap Day.

But seems to me that like Mabel, the woman still is the one who is making the decision.

"Outdoors with Coggin Heeringa" can be heard every Wednesday on Classical IPR.