Journal of Mathematical Biology

, Volume 45, Issue 1, pp 1–21

A long-term genetic model for the evolution of sexual preference: the theories of Fisher and Zahavi re-examined


  • Ilan Eshel
    • Department of Statistics and OR, School of Mathematics, Tel Aviv University, Israel. e-mail:
  • Emilia Sansone
    • Department of Mathematics and its Applications, University of Naples, Federico II, Naples, Italy. e-mail:
  • Frans Jacobs
    • Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN 37996-1610, USA

DOI: 10.1007/s002850200138

Cite this article as:
Eshel, I., Sansone, E. & Jacobs, F. J Math Biol (2002) 45: 1. doi:10.1007/s002850200138


 Long-term co-evolution of male's sexual extravagance and female's preference for it is studied. Fisher's ``Sexy Son'' principle is checked against Zahavi's Handicap Principle. It is shown that although both principles are equally likely to explain this sort of co-evolution in the short run, only the second one allows for a long-term evolutionarily stable females' preference for costly male's extravagance. It is shown, however, that Fisher's argument, although not sufficient on its own to explain long-term persistence of females' choice, may tacitly appear as an indispensable component for the application of Zahavi's theory to the important case of dense polygenous populations.

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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2002