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Trends Ecol Evol. 2004 Oct;19(10):554-9.

Choosing mates: good genes versus genes that are a good fit.

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  • 1Department of Biological Sciences, 101 Life Sciences Bld, Auburn University, Auburn, AL 36849, USA. maysher@auburn.edu


Female choice for male ornamental traits is widely accepted as a mechanism by which females maximize their reproductive success and/or offspring quality. However, there is an increasing empirical literature that shows a fitness benefit of genetic diversity and a tendency for females to use genetic dissimilarity as a criterion for mate choice. This genetic compatibility hypothesis for female mate choice presents a paradox. How can females use both an absolute criterion, such as male ornamentation, and a relative criterion, such as genetic dissimilarity, to choose their mates? Here, we present potential solutions for this dilemma and the empirical evidence supporting them. The interplay between these two contrasting forms of female mate choice presents an exciting empirical and theoretical challenge for evolutionary ecologists.

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