Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Psychological Science

Living Edition
| Editors: Todd K. Shackelford, Viviana A. Weekes-Shackelford

Male Ornamentation

  • Barnaby J. W. DixsonEmail author
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-16999-6_1401-1



Sexual selection has shaped the evolution of extravagant secondary sexual characters in males via female choice (intersexual selection) and male-male competition (intra-sexual selection). Visually conspicuous sexually dimorphic characters can play a purely ornamental role in sociosexual interactions as “badges of status” communicating maturity, social status, dominance, and sexual attractiveness. This entry takes a Darwinian comparative approach spanning monkeys, apes, and man to outline how sexual selection has shaped male ornamentation.


Sexual selection theory asserts that female choice, male-male competition, or their combination has shaped the evolution of sexually dimorphic male secondary sexual characters (Darwin 1871). Ornaments embellish and elaborate upon underlying bodily or facial structures and, in some cases, are part of coordinated behavioral displays that serve to attract females (Puts 2010). In...

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of PsychologyUniversity of QueenslandBrisbaneAustralia

Section editors and affiliations

  • Douglas Sellers
    • 1
  1. 1.Penn State Worthington ScrantonScrantonUSA