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Curr Biol. 2006 Sep 5;16(17):R755-65.

Sexual selection and condition-dependent mate preferences.

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  • 1Department of Biology, University College London, Wolfson House, 4 Stephenson Way, London NW1 2HE, UK.


The last decade has witnessed considerable theoretical and empirical investigation of how male sexual ornaments evolve. This strong male-biased perspective has resulted in the relative neglect of variation in female mate preferences and its consequences for ornament evolution. As sexual selection is a co-evolutionary process between males and females, ignoring variation in females overlooks a key aspect of this process. Here, we review the empirical evidence that female mate preferences, like male ornaments, are condition dependent. We show accumulating support for the hypothesis that high quality females show the strongest mate preference. Nonetheless, this is still an infant field, and we highlight areas in need of more research, both theoretical and empirical. We also examine some of the wider implications of condition-dependent mating decisions and their effect on the strength of sexual selection.

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