From: Adele Rackley, Planet Earth Online
Published February 3, 2011 09:00 AM

Fit females have strong male-like traits, reveals study

Combs on female red grouse are bigger during the breeding season and among fitter, more mature adults – just like they are in males – a new study led by scientists from the University of Aberdeen shows. This is the first experimental evidence that suggests these male-like traits in females are dependent on the individual's fitness.


Most scientists have associated these conspicuous features with sexual selection in males, and put the female versions down to shared genes – a by-product of sexual selection pressures on males with no purpose in females at all.

But not everyone agreed. 'I've always wondered: if that's the only reason, then why do females show conspicuous traits at all? What's the need for it?' says Dr Jesus Martinez-Padilla of Spain's National Museum of Natural History in Madrid, who was at the University of Aberdeen when he led the research.

An alternative theory, tested by this new study published in Biology Letters, suggests that these elaborate features could help potential mates assess the quality of the female, as well a play a role in competition between females.

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