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Sexual selection results in sex-specific characters like the conspicuously pigmented extension of the ventral tip of the caudal fin - the “sword” - in males of several species of Xiphophorus fishes. To uncover the genetic architecture underlying sword formation and to identify genes that are associated with its development, we characterized the sword transcriptional profile and combined it with genetic mapping approaches. Results showed that the male ornament of swordtails develops from a sexually non-dimorphic prepattern of transcription factors in the caudal fin. Among genes that constitute the exclusive sword transcriptome only two are located in the genomic region associated with this trait; the chaperone, fkbp9, and the potassium channel, kcnh8 that in addition to its neural function performs a role known to affect fin growth. This indicates that during evolution of swordtails a brain gene has been recruited for an additional function in establishing a male ornament. ### Competing Interest Statement The authors have declared no competing interest.

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