A general mechanism for conditional expression of exaggerated sexually-selected traits
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Sexually-selected exaggerated traits tend to be unusually reliable signals of individual condition, as their expression tends to be more sensitive to nutritional history and physiological circumstance than that of other phenotypes. As such, these traits are the foundation for many models of sexual selection and animal communication, such as "handicap" and "good genes" models. Exactly how expression of these traits is linked to the bearer's condition has been a central yet unresolved question, in part because the underlying physiological mechanisms regulating their development have remained largely unknown. Recent discoveries across animals as diverse as deer, beetles, and flies now implicate the widely conserved insulin-like signaling pathway, as a common physiological mechanism regulating condition-sensitive structures with extreme growth. This raises the exciting possibility that one highly conserved pathway may underlie the evolution of trait exaggeration in a multitude of sexually-selected signal traits across the animal kingdom.