Biological ornament  

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"Fisherian runaway or runaway selection is a sexual selection mechanism proposed by the mathematical biologist Ronald Fisher in the early 20th century, to account for the evolution of exaggerated male ornamentation by persistent, directional female choice. In most species, females are the choosy sex which discriminates among competitive males." --Sholem Stein

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

A biological ornament is a characteristic of an animal that appears to serve a decorative function rather than a utilitarian function. Many are secondary sexual characteristics, and others appear on young birds during the period when they are dependent on being fed by their parents. Ornaments are used in displays to attract mates, which may lead to the evolutionary process known as sexual selection. An animal may shake, lengthen, or spread out its ornament in order to get the attention of the opposite sex, which will in turn choose the most attractive one with which to mate. Ornaments are most often observed in males and choosing an extravagantly ornamented male benefits females because the genes that produce the ornament will be passed on to her offspring, increasing their own reproductive fitness. As Ronald Fisher noted, the male offspring will inherit the ornament while the female offspring will inherit the preference for said ornament, which can lead to a positive feedback loop known as a Fisherian runaway. These structures serve as cues to animal sexual behaviour, that is, they are sensory signals that affect mating responses. Therefore, ornamental traits are often selected by mate choice.



Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Biological ornament" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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