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Female choosiness leads to the evolution of individually distinctive males

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Publication details

JournalEvolution: international journal of organic evolution
DatePublished - Dec 2012
Issue number12
Number of pages7
Pages (from-to)3736-3742
Original languageEnglish


Individual recognition is a taxonomically widespread ability that underlies a diverse suite of behaviors including the identification of individual nest-mates, agonistic opponents, and mating partners. However, as yet relatively little is known about the circumstances under which the requisite signal diversity can evolve. Here, we develop a model describing a novel mechanism of individual identity evolution via sexual selection. Females choose among a subset of males, but can select the most attractive male only when he bears a unique identity signal. This mimics a species in which mate assessment and choice are temporally separate, such as when females observe males in direct conflict and must subsequently locate the winner. When females in our model are choosy at least 10% of the time, diversity at individuality signaling loci evolves as a by-product of selection on male attractiveness more rapidly than does diversity at equivalent loci evolving only under neutral processes. Even at lower discrimination rates, drifting signal diversity gives the female choice mechanism sufficient traction to drive up average male attractiveness. The mechanism we describe here can significantly increase signal diversity at even low rates of discrimination by females.

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