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Can non-directional male mating preferences facilitate honest female ornamentation?


  • Present address: Paul Doughty, Western Australian Museum, Perth, 6000 WA, Australia


Recent studies have demonstrated male mate choice for female ornaments in species without sex-role reversal. Despite these empirical findings, little is known about the adaptive dynamics of female signalling, in particular the evolution of male mating preferences. The evolution of traits that signal mate quality is more complex in females than in males because females usually provide the bulk of resources for the developing offspring. Here, we investigate the evolution of male mating preferences using a mathematical model which: (i) specifically accounts for the fact that females must trade-off resources invested in ornaments with reproduction; and (ii) allows male mating preferences to evolve a non-directional shape. The optimal adaptive strategy for males is to develop stabilizing mating preferences for female display traits to avoid females that either invests too many or too few resources in ornamentation. However, the evolutionary stability of this prediction is dependent upon the level of error made by females when allocating resources to either signal or fecundity.