Skip to main page content
Access keys NCBI Homepage MyNCBI Homepage Main Content Main Navigation
, 144 (4), 517-46

Biological Signals as Handicaps


Biological Signals as Handicaps

A Grafen. J Theor Biol.


An ESS model of Zahavi's handicap principle is constructed. This allows a formal exposition of how the handicap principle works, and shows that its essential elements are strategic. The handicap model is about signalling, and it is proved under fairly general conditions that if the handicap principle's conditions are met, then an evolutionarily stable signalling equilibrium exists in a biological signalling system, and that any signalling equilibrium satisfies the conditions of the handicap principle. Zahavi's major claims for the handicap principle are thus vindicated. The place of cheating is discussed in view of the honesty that follows from the handicap principle. Parallel signalling models in economics are discussed. Interpretations of the handicap principle are compared. The models are not fully explicit about how females use information about male quality, and, less seriously, have no genetics. A companion paper remedies both defects in a model of the handicap principle at work in sexual selection.

Comment in

Similar articles

  • The Handicap Principle: How an Erroneous Hypothesis Became a Scientific Principle
    DJ Penn et al. Biol Rev Camb Philos Soc 95 (1), 267-290. PMID 31642592.
    The most widely cited explanation for the evolution of reliable signals is Zahavi's so-called Handicap Principle, which proposes that signals are honest because they are …
  • Sexual Selection Unhandicapped by the Fisher Process
    A Grafen. J Theor Biol 144 (4), 473-516. PMID 2402152.
    A population genetic model of sexual selection is constructed in which, at equilibrium, males signal their quality by developing costly ornaments, and females pay costs t …
  • Error-prone Signalling
    RA Johnstone et al. Proc Biol Sci 248 (1323), 229-33. PMID 1354361.
    The handicap principle of Zahavi is potentially of great importance to the study of biological communication. Existing models of the handicap principle, however, make the …
  • Are Aposematic Signals Honest? A Review
    K Summers et al. J Evol Biol 28 (9), 1583-99. PMID 26079980. - Review
    We explore the relevance of honest signalling theory to the evolution of aposematism. We begin with a general consideration of models of signal stability, with a focus on …
  • What Maintains Signal Honesty in Animal Colour Displays Used in Mate Choice?
    RJ Weaver et al. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci 372 (1724). PMID 28533460. - Review
    Many of the colour displays of animals are proposed to have evolved in response to female mate choice for honest signals of quality, but such honest signalling requires m …
See all similar articles

Cited by 235 PubMed Central articles

See all "Cited by" articles