Why have birds got multiple sexual ornaments?

  title={Why have birds got multiple sexual ornaments?},
  author={Anders Pape M{\o}ller and Andrew Pomiankowski},
  journal={Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology},
SummaryMales of many animals have more than a single exaggerated secondary sexual character, but inter-specific variability in the number of ornaments has never been explained. We examine three hypotheses that may account for the presence of multiple ornaments. First, the multiple message hypothesis proposes that each display reflects a single property of the overall quality of an animal. This is likely to be the case for ornaments that respond to condition on different time scales. Second, the… 

Sexual selection on multiple female ornaments in dance flies

A manipulative field experiment is presented that explores the theoretical ‘trait space’ of multiple female-specific ornaments to study how these unusual traits evolved and is consistent with predictions from a sexual conflict model of ornament expression in supporting the probable role of deception in the evolution of female- Specific Ornaments among dance flies.

The Evolution of Female Preferences for Multiple Indicators of Quality

This work develops a model in which the ornaments act as signals for distinct quality components and identifies parallels between Fisherian and good‐genes mechanisms for the evolution of multipleOrnaments.

Degree of mutual ornamentation in birds is related to divorce rate

  • K. Kraaijeveld
  • Biology
    Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. Series B: Biological Sciences
  • 2003
The results show a significant positive association between the degree of mutual ornamentation and divorce rate, and it is argued that these results are compatible with a process of mutual sexual selection, in which both sexes compete for access to mates.

Mate choice for multiple ornaments in the California quail, Callipepla californica

It is indicated that female California quail have active, flexible mate preferences for a variety of novel and extant traits and the importance of incorporating composite traits into the analysis of mate preferences is illustrated.

Context‐dependent female preference for multiple ornaments in the bearded reedling

The results suggest that the female's choice may be constrained by her cognitive abilities when she is simultaneously presented with several options varying for two uncorrelated traits, which indicates that in the bearded reedlings population there exists a mate preference polymorphisms.

Multiple ornaments are positively related to male survival in the common pheasant

Male survivors had larger multiple ornaments, regardless of age, than males that were killed by predators but survival selection on wing length and body weight was nonsignificant, showing that selection on male ornament was not the result of selection on correlated traits.

Male ornament variation in a sexually dimorphic seabird with variable male mating success

No strong morphological predictors of male mating success are found and only partial evidence for the reduced phenotypic variation that would be predicted by the lek paradox is found.

Multiple ornaments in male northern cardinals, Cardinalis cardinalis, as indicators of condition

Variation in four male ornaments in socially monogamous, biparental northern cardinals (Cardinalis cardinalis) was related to body size, indices of condition, level of paternal care, and reproductive success, consistent with the hypothesis that different ornament in male cardinals provide information on different aspects of condition and behavior.

Divergent roles for multiple sexual signals in a polygynous lizard

Embedded within the same male lizard display are divergent sexual structures that signal different traits, implying that the possession of multiple sexual signals within animals may be favoured by selection.



Patterns of fluctuating asymmetry in sexual ornaments predict female choice

It is demonstrated that female choice can be directly predicted from the relationship between the degree of fluctuating asymmetry and the size of a secondary sexual character, suggesting that females prefer exaggerated secondary sexual characters if they reliably demonstrate the ability of males to cope with genetic and environmental stress.

Patterns of fluctuating asymmetry in avian feather ornaments: implications for models of sexual selection

  • A. MøllerJ. Höglund
  • Psychology
    Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. Series B: Biological Sciences
  • 1991
The predictions that sexual ornaments should show a larger degree of fluctuating asymmetry than other morphological traits or than homologous traits in non ornamented species and the negative relation between ornament size and degree of asymmetry suggest that fluctuate asymmetry in ornament reliably reflects male phenotypic quality.

Sexual ornament size and the cost of fluctuating asymmetry

  • A. Møller
  • Biology
    Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. Series B: Biological Sciences
  • 1991
I used fluctuating asymmetry in ornament size as a measure of the ability of individuals to achieve identical development of the ornament on both sides of their body, suggesting that asymmetry per se and inherent differences between individuals affected their flight performance.


  • M. Kirkpatrick
  • Biology, Psychology
    Evolution; international journal of organic evolution
  • 1982
The primary conclusion of the present paper is that the initial selective advantages for the female preference assumed by Fisher, O'Donald, and many later authors are not necessary for either the origin or subsequent elaboration of mating preferences for traits associated with reduced survivorship.


  • M. Andersson
  • Biology
    Evolution; international journal of organic evolution
  • 1986
The possibility that the evolution of mating preferences and secondary sex traits can be based on heritable differences in viability is examined with a three‐locus model, based on a monogamous mating system that precludes such a Fisherian mating advantage being required.

Size and Plumage Dimorphism in Lek-Breeding Birds: A Comparative Analysis

Although lekking seems to have favored the evolution of plumage dimorphism in some groups, it is suggested that in other groups sexual selection may be explained by selection for small agile males in species with aerial and/or arboreal displays.

The costs of choice in sexual selection.

Truth in Advertising: The Kinds of Traits Favored by Sexual Selection

The truth in advertising model describes a mechanism of sexual selection to account for the evolution of the kinds of traits used by males of polygynous species to compete for and attract mates and deemphasizes the traditional dichotomies between the effects ofsexual selection and natural selection.

Frequency of Female Copulations with Multiple Males and Sexual Selection

It is suggested that female propensity to engage in such multimale copulations is caused by constraints on female mate choice set by the availability of males, and sexual selection resulting from choice of copulation partners should reinforce precopulatory sexual selection.