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The Handicap Principle


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Since the time of Darwin, altruism and other forms of cooperation have puzzled evolutionary biologists. Several theories have been proposed to explain these behaviors, but each has weaknesses in the framework of traditional natural selection. The Zahavis, working with babblers (group-living birds), developed the handicap principle and signal selection to explain these apparent paradoxes. (Their theory proposes that when an animal behaves altruistically, it does so to increase its status within its group as a partner or rival.) This book presents their evidence, elaborated in many technical papers since the 1970s, to explain such behaviors in babblers and such diverse organisms as slime molds, social insects, peafowl, and human children playing tag. The handicap principle is an important new theory that explains many seemingly diverse problems in evolutionary biology. This book is highly readable yet rigorous enough for specialists. Essential for any academic collection and worthwhile for general collections.‘Bruce D. Neville, Univ. of New Mexico Lib., Albuquerque

"This is an excellent review of the complicated components of Zahavi's handicap principle."--Robert G. Jaeger, University of Southwestern Louisiana "Great overview, treats all perspectives fairly..."--Mary Victoria McDonald, University of Central Arkansas "Among the most revolutionary and controversial concepts in modern behavioral biology is the handicap principle developed by Zahavi. After initially encountering resistance, it has been receiving increased acceptance for its success in explaining an enormous variety of animal behaviors and anatomical structures, from gazelles' seemingly suicidal displays to men's beards. Read this fine book, and discover what the excitement is all about!"--Jared M. Diamond, Professor of Physiology, University of California at Los Angeles "This fascinating, provocative, insightful and controversial book will charm, inform and sometimes infuriate all of those interested in understanding animal and human communication."--Paul Ekman, Professor of Psychology, University of California, San Francisco "By now the Handicap Principle is acknowledged by a growing body of biologists, and by joining their forces Amotz and Avishang Zahavi explain the principle and how it applies to communicative behaviour between organisms...from amebas to humans."--Arne Lundberg, Uppsala University, Sweden "[An] extremely well-written popularization of the authors' scientific work. Covering species as different as tigers and barn swallows, and topics as diverse as parasitism and parental care, the authors apply their theory to many aspects of animal behavior that were difficult to explain previously.... Highly recommended."--Booklist "This book is highly readable yet rigorous enough for specialists. Essential for any academic collection and worthwhile for genearal collections."--Library Journal "The Zahavis write well, with admirable clarity...Very readable book"--Science Books and Films

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