Letters to Nature

Nature 434, 501-505 (24 March 2005) | doi:10.1038/nature03363; Received 29 November 2004; Accepted 14 January 2005

Evidence that sensory traps can evolve into honest signals

Constantino Macías Garcia1 & Elvia Ramirez1

  1. Departamento de Ecología Evolutiva, Instituto de Ecología, UNAM, AP 70-275, CP 04510 México DF, México

Correspondence to: Constantino Macías Garcia1 Correspondence and requests for materials should be addressed to C.M.G. (Email: maciasg@servidor.unam.mx).

Conventional models1, 2, 3, 4 explaining extreme sexual ornaments propose that these reflect male genetic quality2, 3, 4 or are arbitrary results of genetic linkage between female preference and the ornament1. The chase-away model5 emphasizes sexual conflict: male signals attract females because they exploit receiver biases6, 7, 8, 9. As males gain control of mating decisions, females may experience fitness costs through suboptimal mating rates or post-copulatory exploitation. Elaboration of male signals is expected if females increase their response threshold to resist such exploitation. If ornaments target otherwise adaptive biases such as feeding responses8, 9, 10, selection on females might eventually separate sexual and non-sexual responses to the signal. Here we show that the terminal yellow band (TYB) of several Goodeinae species evokes both feeding and sexual responses; sexual responsiveness phylogenetically pre-dates the expression of the TYB in males and is comparable across taxa, yet feeding responsiveness decreases in species with more elaborated TYBs. Displaying a TYB is costly, and thus provides an example where a trait arose as a sensory trap but has evolved into an honest signal.

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