Assume we have a sentient race that is both non-dimorphic insofar as males and females have no non-cosmetic secondary sexual traits, simply different reproductive organs and perhaps different cosmetic features, and oviparous, i.e. laying already-internally-fertilized eggs. (For instance, this is one possible way to implement reptilian sentients or dragonkin reproduction-wise.)

How would gender roles be divided up by such a people, considering that:

  • The egg only stays resident within the mother for a short period of time (hours?) after fertilization (i.e. spend a night in bed, lay the egg in the morning)
  • Eggs are fertilized/laid one at a time -- if you want another egg, you have to have another go at it with your spouse
  • Neither parent is any better equipped to care for the egg than the other
  • Incubation of the egg does not require brooding (the egg can be hidden in a suitable spot and left there)
  • Young do need at least some care after hatching, but this also can be provided by either parent
  • There is an even chance of getting either gender from any given mating, and it's not influenceable by incubation conditions

Would we see a lean towards one gender or the other handling parenting, or would it be a dead split down the middle? How would the risks for having an even gender split in combat be different? Would we see concepts like patriarchy or matriarchy?


2 Answers 2


I think there would be some differences, but they'd all be based on the fact that only females can lay eggs, which makes them the childbearing sex, like always. Any species, whether offspring are brought to term through egglaying or developing inside the mother's body, can only afford to lose so many healthy, fertile females without extinction. In essence, they'd probably be pretty much like us but with more gender equality since due to lack of dimorphism, females wouldn't be the "weaker" sex.

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    $\begingroup$ I would expect them to have a lot more symmetry in roles. A lot of so called gender roles are distant echos of fact that biologically speaking, mammal (i.eg. human) males are disposable. Because in those hypothetical species there's no preference for either sex to care about offspring, and most of gestation happens inside egg, I would expect females of this species to be nearly as disposable as males. $\endgroup$
    – M i ech
    Commented Dec 25, 2016 at 1:18

Another factor that should be taken into consideration is the amount of investment required in order to successfully rear the child to adulthood.

If the amount of effort is intense and lasts for more than a decade, the pattern of something like the arrangements we see in humanity will emerge.

If the investment is brief or light, then the mother will do the bulk of the work.


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