A Mechanism of Extreme Growth and Reliable Signaling in Sexually Selected Ornaments and Weapons

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Science  17 Aug 2012:
Vol. 337, Issue 6096, pp. 860-864
DOI: 10.1126/science.1224286

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  • RE: Do current models need modification?

    Emlen et al. show that insulin/IGF signalling is a mechanism for 'index' signalling, where a poor-condition male cannot pretend to be healthier than he really is (e.g., because large horns require high insulin levels). They suggest that this mechanism explains why signals are honest. However, it was unclear whether this demands a modification of evolutionary explanations for signal honesty-- especially the 'handicap principle' or 'costly-signalling theory'-- as the authors suggest. Alan Grafen, Jen Perry, and I have published a theoretical model that addresses this. We conclude that costly signalling theory provides the ultimate, adaptive rationale for honest signalling, whereas the index hypothesis describes one proximate (and potentially very general) mechanism for achieving honesty. See our paper here:

    Competing Interests: None declared.