For male elephant seals, the fight to secure a mate can be vicious, even deadly. So they try everything they can to avoid it. This is a pattern biologists see again and again – across the animal kingdom, males have evolved to use signals to assess each other’s prowess and avert costly physical confrontations. In most cases, these signals are honest – they accurately convey an individual’s size, strength or dominance. But new research shows this is not the case for Elephant seals, which have evolved a more sophisticated system.