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Keywords:

  • sexual selection;
  • mate choice;
  • mating competition;
  • weapon badge

Secondary sexual characters in many species function both in male-male competition and as cues for female choice. Based on a literature compilation of existing knowledge of traits with this dual function, we propose that they commonly arise through intersexual selection processes and serve as honest signals to other males regarding fighting ability or dominance. Faking these traits, here called armaments, (i.e. weapons and status badges) is difficult, as they are constantly put to trial in male-male contests. Females that subsequently utilize them as indicators of male phenotypic quality when selecting a partner will benefit by acquiring males of higher quality to father their offspring. Thus, evolution of armaments through male-male competition is seen as a usually initiating process, whereas female choice later may assume a role as an additional selective factor. The reverse, that males use information from traits evolved through female choice, is, however, also possible. The traditional view of independently evolved and temporarily unordered intra- and intersexual selection processes fails to explain dual trait functions. Moreover, our model may more satisfyingly than traditional ones explain how trait honesty and trait genetic variance are maintained: theoretical and empirical evidence suggests that such honesty and variation are more easily maintained under male-male competition than under female choice.