I am intrigued by the observation that females of many species are elaborately ornamented (e.g., flamingo, blue jay, tropical orioles/tanagers/warblers/hummingbirds).

© 2006 Troy Murphy

My research focus is on female beauty. Very little is known about whether female ornaments are generally adaptive, and whether they function as communication signals. Unfortunately, little previous research has focused on female social behavior, and so we do not understand if the same evolutionary processes that are well understood to act on males, also apply to females. Much of my research to date has shown that females are not using ornaments to impress potential mates, but that females often use ornamentation to communicate to each other about their own dominance (i.e., as status signals), or that female ornamentation can be naturally selected for anti-predation purposes.