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Proc Biol Sci. Apr 22, 2004; 271(1541): 771–783.
PMCID: PMC1691662
Do sexual ornaments demonstrate heightened condition-dependent expression as predicted by the handicap hypothesis?
Samuel Cotton, Kevin Fowler, and Andrew Pomiankowski
The Galton Laboratory, Department of Biology, University College London, 4 Stephenson Way, London NW1 2HE, UK.
The handicap hypothesis of sexual selection predicts that sexual ornaments have evolved heightened condition-dependent expression. The prediction has only recently been subject to experimental investigation. Many of the experiments are of limited value as they: (i) fail to compare condition dependence in sexual ornaments with suitable non-sexual trait controls; (ii) do not adequately account for body size variation; and (iii) typically consider no stress and extreme stress manipulations rather than a range of stresses similar to those experienced in nature. There is also a dearth of experimental studies investigating the genetic basis of condition dependence. Despite the common claim that sexual ornaments are condition-dependent, the unexpected conclusion from our literature review is that there is little support from well-designed experiments.
Articles from Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences are provided here courtesy of
The Royal Society