Concealed ovulation

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Human females have concealed ovulation or hidden estrus. Most female animals show distinctive signs when they are "in heat". These include swelling and redness of the genitalia in baboons and bonobos, pheromone release in the feline family, etc. By comparison, human females have few external signs of fertility. It is difficult to tell, by means of external signs only, whether or not a woman is ovulating at the time. Humans are the only mammal to lack obvious, visible manifestations of ovulation, although some argue that the extended estrus period of the bonobo (reproductive-age females are in heat for 75% of their menstrual cycle)[1] has a similar effect to the lack of a "heat" in human females.[2]

While women can be taught to recognize their own ovulation (fertility awareness), whether men can detect ovulation in women is highly debated. At least one recent study has argued that men are more likely to initiate sex with fertile women[3], while another has found male-initiated sex to occur at a constant rate throughout the menstrual cycle.[4]

One group of authors has theorized that concealed ovulation and menstruation were key factors in the development of symbolic culture in early human society.[5]

See also


  1. Lanting, Frans; Waal, F. B. M. de (1997). Bonobo: the forgotten ape. Berkeley: University of California Press. pp. p.107. ISBN 0-520-20535-9. Retrieved 2007-09-05.
  2. Stanford, Craig B. (March–April 2000). "The Brutal Ape vs. the Sexy Ape? The Make-Love-Not-War Ape". American Scientist. 88 (2): 110. doi:10.1511/2000.2.110. Retrieved 2007-09-05.
  3. Petrie, M. (August 2004). "Female facial attractiveness increases during the fertile phase of the menstrual cycle". Proc.R.Soc.Lond.B (Suppl.). 271: S270–S272. doi:10.1098/rsbl.2004.0174.
  4. Susan B. Bullivant, Sarah A. Sellergren, Kathleen Stern; et al. (February 2004). "Women's sexual experience during the menstrual cycle: identification of the sexual phase by noninvasive measurement of luteinizing hormone". Journal of Sex Research. 41 (1): 82–93. PMID 15216427.
  5. Chris Knight (1991). Blood relations: menstruation and the origins of culture. New Haven, Conn: Yale University Press. ISBN 0-300-04911-0.
    Knight, Chris (1995). "The Human Symbolic Revolution: A Darwinian Account" (PDF). Cambridge Archaeological Journal. 5 (1): 75–114. Retrieved 2006-12-13. Unknown parameter |coauthors= ignored (help)

Further reading

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