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sexual selectionsexuelle Selektion (ger.)

  • The evolutionary theory, originally proposed by Darwin, of the preferential reproduction of male organisms with characteristics that favour their success in competition with other males, either directly or through mate choice by females, intended to account for the development of features such as large size, elaborate horns, ornamental coloration, etc. (OED 2008)
    selection intersexual selection

    what I call Sexual Selection […] depends, not on a struggle for existence, but on a struggle between the males for the possession of the females; the result is not death to the unsuccessful competitor, but few or no offspring.

    Darwin, C. (1859). On the Origin of Species: 88.


    The theory of sexual selection […] assumes that the female continues to select in successive generations the more ornamental males.

    Morgan, T.H. (1932). The Scientific Basis of Evolution: 154.


    we define natural selection as genetically correlated differential reproduction over a sequence of generations. By this broader but not anti-Darwinian definition, sexual selection, to the extent that it does occur, is not an alternative to natural selection but a special case of it

    Simpson, G.G. (1972). The evolutionary concept of man. In: Campbell, B. (ed.). Sexual Selection and the Descent of Man, 1871-1971, 17-39: 29-30.


    Darwin distinguishes natural selection, which depends on the struggle for existence, from ‘sexual selection’, which depends on the struggle to secure mates. Sexual selection can favour traits which, although they increase reproductive success by attracting members of the opposite sex, may be neutral or even detrimental to an organism’s ability to survive. (The peacock’s tail, and the antlers of the Irish elk, are well-known examples of extravagant traits usually attributed to sexual selection.) Since the modern perspective describes any trait which augments reproductive success as enhancing fitness, the modern perspective is likely to count sexual selection as a form of natural selection, rather than distinct from it.

    Lewens, T. (2009). Natural selection and adaptation. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy Online.