KLI Colloquia are informal, public talks that are followed by extensive dissussions. Speakers are KLI fellows or visiting researchers who are interested in presenting their work to an interdisciplinary audience and discussing it in a wider research context. We offer three types of talks:

1. Current Research Talks. KLI fellows or visiting researchers present and discuss their most recent research with the KLI fellows and the Vienna scientific community.

2. Future Research Talks. Visiting researchers present and discuss future projects and ideas togehter with the KLI fellows and the Vienna scientific community.

3. Professional Developmental Talks. Experts about research grants and applications at the Austrian and European levels present career opportunities and strategies to late-PhD and post-doctoral researchers.

  • The presentation language is English.
  • If you are interested in presenting your current or future work at the KLI, please contact the Scientific Director or the Executive Manager.

Event Details

Mihaela Pavlicev
KLI Colloquia
Evolutionary Origin, Modification, Effect and Importance - the Riddle of Female Orgasm
Mihaela PAVLICEV (Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center)
2017-03-07 16:30 - 2017-03-07 6:00
Organized by KLI

Topic description:
The existence of human female orgasm has posed a much-discussed challenge to evolutionary biologists and broader. What is its role? The evidence for any direct reproductive effect is lacking: women readily conceive without ever experiencing orgasm, and penetrative sex without additional clitoral stimulation is not the primary trigger of orgasm for females. To address the question, we focused on physiological proxy- the neuroendocrine hormonal surge that accompanies human female orgasm. Remarkably, this surge is similar to the neuroendocrine reflex which triggers ovulation in copulation-induced mammals, such as rabbits, ferrets or cats. This suggests that human female orgasm may be a vestige of an evolutionarily older reflex inducing ovulation, which lost its role with the evolution of endogenously regulated ovulatory cycle. Apart from endocrine similarities, two types of evidence support this idea. The first is that copulation-induced ovulation evolutionarily precedes spontaneous ovulation. The second is that female genital anatomy has changed to remove clitoris from copulatory canal concurrent with the evolution of spontaneous ovulation.

Apart from the particular work, I would like to invite everyone to discuss more general issues in evolutionary biology that are beautifully manifested in the discussions about female orgasm, such as the distinction between modification and origin of traits, the importance of function for demonstrating adaptation, and the focus on homology.


Biographical note:
Mihaela Pavlicev is evolutionary biologist with a wide range of interests. After finishing her PhD in Ecology in Vienna, 2003, she joined Natural History Museum in Vienna to work on molecular phylogenetics of reptiles (with E. Haring, W. Mayer). This was followed by two consecutive postdoctoral appointments in evolutionary quantitative genetics, in St. Louis (with J. Cheverud) and in Oslo (with T. Hansen). Mihaela subsequently returned to Vienna as a postdoctoral fellow at KLI and lecturer at the University of Vienna, before taking a faculty position at the University of Cincinnati Medical School/ Cincinnati Children`s Hospital in Ohio in 2013.

Mihaela`s work has been focused around the influence of the structure of genotype-phenotype map on evolutionary response to selection, as well as the evolution of this map. Two aspects of the genotype-phenotype map, which is essentially an abstraction of developmental/physiological genetic structure, have been of particular interest: the evolution of gene effects and the impact of pleiotropic genes affecting multiple traits.

More recently, Mihaela started exploring how evolutionary approaches to studying variation of traits, both short- and long term, can be used to understand specific trait states, namely disease. Recent work includes theoretical and experimental work focusing on the evolution of mammalian pregnancy and its relevance for human medicine.