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© 2015, Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht. Modern sexual selection theory, developed from Darwin’s original intuition, is a cornerstone of evolutionary theory and represents the most parsimonious and robust explanation for a bewildering array of evolutionary patterns and diversity. Here we first outline the principles of modern sexual selection theory and discuss their heuristic value. Second, we review empirical demonstrations of the operation of sexual selection through the case study of the yellow dung fly. Finally, we propose that a sequence of evolutionary events flows inevitably from the early evolution of sexual recombination and gametes, to anisogamy and in dioecious organisms, to the unity sex ratio via Fisher’s principle. As Darwin and Bateman predicted, it was the primary sexual difference—anisogamy—that became an almost obligatory, irreversible transition favouring socio-ecological conditions that ultimately generated secondary differentiation of sexual strategies between the sexes, and typically plays a strong part in their maintenance (though sex roles can, rather rarely, be reversed). When considered within the broader context, sexual selection emerges deductively as the logical consequence of this evolutionary succession. We conclude by highlighting aspects integral to sexual selection theory that are currently the focus of on-going discussion.

Original publication





Book title

History, Philosophy and Theory of the Life Sciences

Publication Date





119 - 163