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Nature. 2005 Mar 24;434(7032):501-5.

Evidence that sensory traps can evolve into honest signals.

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Departamento de Ecología Evolutiva, Instituto de Ecología, UNAM, AP 70-275, CP 04510 México DF, México.


Conventional models explaining extreme sexual ornaments propose that these reflect male genetic quality or are arbitrary results of genetic linkage between female preference and the ornament. The chase-away model emphasizes sexual conflict: male signals attract females because they exploit receiver biases. As males gain control of mating decisions, females may experience fitness costs through suboptimal mating rates or post-copulatory exploitation. Elaboration of male signals is expected if females increase their response threshold to resist such exploitation. If ornaments target otherwise adaptive biases such as feeding responses, selection on females might eventually separate sexual and non-sexual responses to the signal. Here we show that the terminal yellow band (TYB) of several Goodeinae species evokes both feeding and sexual responses; sexual responsiveness phylogenetically pre-dates the expression of the TYB in males and is comparable across taxa, yet feeding responsiveness decreases in species with more elaborated TYBs. Displaying a TYB is costly, and thus provides an example where a trait arose as a sensory trap but has evolved into an honest signal.

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