Encyclopedia of Animal Cognition and Behavior

Living Edition
| Editors: Jennifer Vonk, Todd Shackelford


Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-47829-6_315-1


A trait used to attract the opposite sex during mate choice.


Many animals exhibit conspicuous characteristics such as brightly colored body regions or exaggerated physical structures. When these traits function during mate choice to increase the likelihood of their bearer attracting a mate, they are referred to as ornaments. The quintessential example of an ornament is the peacock’s tail: consisting of bright colors and patterns, and enlarged far beyond the relatively small tails of peahens, peacocks’ tails are presented to females during mating displays. Peahens then accept or reject a male based in part on his tail characteristics (Petrie et al. 1991). Ornaments are often sexually dimorphic, with one sex ornamented and the other not, but mutual ornamentation is also observed (Andersson 1994).

Ornamentation is linked to reproductive success, with individuals that display more elaborate ornaments enjoying a selective advantage. Ornamentations are therefore...


Good Genes Hypothesis Ornaments Evolve Signal Honesty Handicap Hypothesis Elaborate Decoration 
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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.New York UniversityNew YorkUSA

Section editors and affiliations

  • Constance Dubuc
    • 1
  1. 1.University of CambridgeCambridgeUK