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It wasn’t just that a colorful bird was physically attractive to a mate, but that his appearance broadcasted a more important and inherent fitness.

The theory of sexual selection has dominated research into animal behaviour for decades, and Darwin’s theory of sexual selection is well supported by thousands of studies, says evolutionary biologist Professor Mark Elgar, from the University of Melbourne’s School of Biosciences.“But Darwin also proposed that sexual selection can favour males who are better at detecting and responding to signals from females, including chemical signals like pheromones.

So males with sensory structures that can better detect female signals may have the edge in finding them in order to mate and pass on their genes.”But he says this idea has been largely overlooked until now.

Professor Elgar and his team have been investigating the idea using moths.

They are now the first to show that males with larger antennae are better equipped to detect the low quantities of sex pheromone, a chemical signal, released by females moths to attract males.

The study included Ph D student Tamara Johnson, Professor Elgar and Dr Matthew Symonds from Deakin University and has been published in the journal .

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