Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

"Fisherian" models of sexual selection by female choice assume that females prefer male characters which are initially advantageous or neutral; character and preference then spread through the population. Once female preference has evolved to a higher frequency, the male character can become more extreme and disadvantageous by the action of some force such as the "super-normal stimulus". By contrast, the "handicap principle" of sexual selection proposes that females should prefer more extreme, disadvantaged males: males who survive the disadvantage of the "handicap" must be fitter in other respects. Previous models of various forms of the "handicap principle" have shown that it is very unlikely to work as an alternative to the "Fisherian process". However, recent haploid models have shown that a "condition-dependent handicap" might evolve. Diploid models show that the "condition-dependent handicap" model does not work. Models of "handicaps" operating together with the "Fisherian process" are also presented. It is inferred that "Fisherian" models are more likely than "handicap" models to account for the evolution of male sexual ornaments, although a "handicap" mechanism may aid the operation of the "Fisherian process".

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date



60 ( Pt 2)


283 - 293


Department of Genetics, Cambridge, U.K.


Animals, Sex Characteristics, Diploidy, Models, Genetic, Female, Male, Sexual Behavior, Animal, Selection, Genetic