Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Psychological Science

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

Secondary Sexual Characteristics

  • M. L. DekkerEmail author
  • C. A. Hinde
  • B. J. A. Pollux
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-16999-6_65-1



A secondary sexual characteristic is defined as a sex-specific trait that appears at the onset of sexual maturity and plays a role in sexual selection but is not directly involved in, or essential for, the act of reproduction (Darwin 1871).


In the animal kingdom, an extraordinary diversity of structures exists that cannot be explained by natural selection (Darwin 1871). Consider, for instance, the elaborate antlers in a male deer (Fig. 1a; family Cervidae; Emlen 2008) or the wonderfully extravagant feathers of the peacock (Fig. 1b; Pavo cristatus; Petrie et al., 1991). These remarkable structures, referred to as secondary sexual characteristics, are most commonly observed in males and are thought to have evolved by means of sexual selection (Andersson 1994). These sexual characteristics may be energetically costly to produce and maintain and may be...


Sexual Selection Female Choice Secondary Sexual Characteristic Male Trait Secondary Sexual Character 
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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. L. Dekker
    • 1
    Email author
  • C. A. Hinde
    • 2
  • B. J. A. Pollux
    • 1
  1. 1.Experimental Zoology Group, Department of Animal SciencesWageningen University and ResearchWageningenThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Behavioral Ecology Group, Department of Animal SciencesWageningen University and ResearchWageningenThe Netherlands