• differential cost;
  • expenditure;
  • fitness cost;
  • immunocompetence;
  • predation;
  • sexual selection;
  • survival;
  • viability


Costs of sexual traits are of central importance to the theory of sexual selection. To qualify as a cost in line with theoretical models, empirical studies must demonstrate that sexual traits cause negative effects on one component of fitness of the trait bearer. Moreover, it must be demonstrated that the costs are differential such that negative effects on fitness are more severe for individuals in poor condition than for individuals in good condition. However, in the current literature, there is confusion over what qualifies as a cost, and costs are often anticipated based on findings of increased expenditure. Consequently, it seems that the generally accepted notion that sexual traits are costly is in fact based almost exclusively on indirect evidence and that direct empirical evidence is very scarce.