Encyclopedia of Animal Cognition and Behavior

Living Edition
| Editors: Jennifer Vonk, Todd Shackelford

Healthy Mate Hypothesis

  • Monika SiekelovaEmail author
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-47829-6_299-1



The healthy mate hypothesis states that mate choice is based on secondary sexual characteristics that act as a proxy for assessing the potential mate’s overall health and parasite resistance.


Sexual selection works on the premise that, out of a pool of potential mates, only few succeed to mate. Usually, the member of the sex that invests more into reproduction undergoes some form of assessment of the potential mate in order to maximize their reproductive success, which in turn creates a selection pressure. Maybe one of the most famous examples of sexual selection is that of the peacock and the peahen. The long, elaborate tail of the peacock has played a role in Darwin’s development of sexual selection theory (Darwin 1859, 1871). Darwin could not explain this attribute with natural selection, as the extravagant tails of peacocks do not appear to be a form of adaptation for survival. Sexual selection, however, provides an explanation...

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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of CambridgeCambridgeUK

Section editors and affiliations

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