I am writing in reference to a citation champion entitled "Why do female adders copulate so frequently?" (T. Madsen, R. Shine, J. Loman, T. Hakansson, Nature, 355:440-1, 1992), as reported in The Scientist (Hot Papers, March 8, 1993, page 15).

Difficult as it is to get scientifically sound but new ideas into print, one's professional sensitivities are perturbed to read about such a preposterous idea printed in Nature and heavily cited by other scientists within one year. Polygamy among certain species is "an enduring puzzle of sociobiology" (according to Richard Shine, a coauthor of the paper), whereas monogamy among snakes would have been a puzzling observation to everyone.

Polygamy in snake populations with an eye on reproductive success through internal mixing of poor and good sperm is just giving adders too much credit. In the absence of mate selection, the outcome in terms of stillbirth and live birth is only...

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