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It was, however, West-Eberhard (1979, 1984) that first elaborated on the possibility that males may evolve novel traits that capitalize on pre-existing female response repertoires that are adaptive in other contexts and that males, by doing so, manipulate female behaviour or physiology in their own favour. Although most subsequent discussions of sensory traps have stressed sensory biases that result from natural selection (e.g.
Christy 1995), such biases can in theory result from any form of selection including sexual selection by female choice for other male traits (Ryan 1990; Ryan & Rand 1993; Endler & Basolo 1998).
First, most female response repertoires have no doubt become established as the result of strong selection.
Females are thus adapted to respond in particular ways to a range of stimuli in order to, for example, successfully find food, avoid predators and breed at optimal rates, times and places.
There are good reasons for this focus: the most problematic issue from a theoretical point of view is to understand selection on female traits that bias mating, or fertilization, success among males.
Without positive selection on female choice traits in cases where they are at all costly, they would rapidly be lost by selection thus nullifying or halting male–female coevolution.
Such multi-dimensional response repertoires form a virtually infinite number of pre-existing sensory biases that are potential targets for novel male traits. Ethologists and sensory physiologists recognized early on that male courtship traits seem to match female sensory capabilities across taxa (see, e.g.
Hinde 1966) and some even suggested that males may have exploited female responses (Wickler 1968).
The fact that male–female coevolution may also play a key role in speciation (Panhuis .
This has produced somewhat diverse views in the literature (Endler & Basolo 1998).