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An analysis of Maynard Smith's two-player, ESS model of biological signalling, the "Sir Philip Sidney game", is presented. The stable strategies of the players in this game are shown to satisfy the conditions of Zahavi's handicap principle. At equilibrium, signals are honest, costly, and costly in a way that is related to the true quality revealed. Further analysis reveals that the level of cost required to maintain stability is inversely related to the degree of relatedness between the players. It therefore seems likely that stable biological signalling systems will feature lower signalling costs when communication occurs between relatives. A three-player, extended version of the model is investigated, in which signals are passed via an intermediate, or "messenger". It is shown that this destabilizes the signalling system, and leads to increased signalling costs. This result suggests that "kin conflict" theories of the evolution of the endosperm in flowering plants require further refinement. The introduction of a novel resource acquisition tissue, which mediates parent-offspring interaction during development, cannot be assumed to limit parent-offspring conflict simply because it carries an extra copy of the maternally inherited genes. The ability to add such complications to the Sir Philip Sidney game and still obtain solutions makes it a very useful modelling tool.


Journal article


J Theor Biol

Publication Date





215 - 234


Animals, Biological Evolution, Game Theory, Mathematics, Models, Genetic, Plants