Sex in the city: sexual selection and urban colonization in passerines.
ABSTRACT: Urbanization leads to a rapid and drastic transformation of habitats, forcing native fauna to manage novel ecological challenges or to move. Sexual selection is a powerful evolutionary force, which is sometimes predicted to enhance the ability of species to adapt to novel environments because it allows females to choose high-quality males, but other times is predicted to reduce the viability of populations because it pushes males beyond naturally selected optima. However, we do not know whether or how sexual selection contributes to the likelihood that animals will establish in urban areas. We use a comparative analysis of passerine birds to test whether traits associated with pre- and post-mating sexual selection predict successful colonization of urban areas. We found that plumage dichromatism was negatively associated with urban tolerance, but found no relationship with sexual size dimorphism or testes mass relative to body mass. While we cannot determine the exact reason why species with high plumage dichromatism occur less in cities, it is likely that urban areas increase the costs of expressing bright coloration due, for instance, to dietary constraints, limited male parental care or increased predation.
Project description:Why do some bird species show dramatic sexual dichromatism in their plumage? Sexual selection is the most common answer to this question. However, other competing explanations mean it is unwise to assume that all sexual dichromatism has evolved by this mechanism. Even if sexual selection is involved, further work is necessary to determine whether dichromatism results from competition amongst rival males, or by female choice for attractive traits, or both. Here, we test whether sexually dichromatic hihi (Notiomystis cincta) plumage is currently under sexual selection, with detailed behavioural and genetic analyses of a free-living island population. Bateman gradients measured for males and females reveal the potential for sexual selection, whilst selection gradients, relating reproductive success to specific colourful traits, show that there is stabilizing selection on white ear tuft length in males. By correlating colourful male plumage with different components of reproductive success, we show that properties of yellow plumage are most likely a product of male-male competition, whilst properties of the black and white plumage are an outcome of both male-male competition and female choice. Male plumage therefore potentially signals to multiple receivers (rival males and potential mates), and this may explain the multicoloured appearance of one of the most strikingly dichromatic species in New Zealand.
Project description:Sexual selection is proposed to be a powerful driver of phenotypic evolution in animal systems. At macroevolutionary scales, sexual selection can theoretically drive both the rate and direction of phenotypic evolution, but this hypothesis remains contentious. Here, we find that differences in the rate and direction of plumage colour evolution are predicted by a proxy for sexual selection intensity (plumage dichromatism) in a large radiation of suboscine passerine birds (Tyrannida). We show that rates of plumage evolution are correlated between the sexes, but that sexual selection has a strong positive effect on male, but not female, interspecific divergence rates. Furthermore, we demonstrate that rapid male plumage divergence is biased towards carotenoid-based (red/yellow) colours widely assumed to represent honest sexual signals. Our results highlight the central role of sexual selection in driving avian colour divergence, and reveal the existence of convergent evolutionary responses of animal signalling traits under sexual selection.
Project description:Historical scenarios of evolution of avian plumage coloration have been called into question with the discoveries that most birds can see UV light (which normal humans cannot), and that UV-reflecting plumages are widespread in birds. Several examples of sexual dichromatism not detectable with human visual capabilities suggest that our categorizations of plumages as sexually mono- or dichromatic might often be incorrect. Nonetheless, given the limited taxonomic scope of those examples, the vast majority of sexually monochromatic birds are still treated as such without question in avian research. Herein, I show that >90% of 139 species, in a broad sampling of presumed sexually monochromatic passerine birds, were actually sexually dichromatic from an avian visual perspective, based on comparisons of plumage reflectance data using a visual model of color discrimination thresholds. The taxonomic ubiquity of this result suggests that many existing interpretations of evolutionary patterns of sexual dichromatism in birds are erroneous. The visual model used herein provides a method for quantifying sexual dichromatism, revealing that most (58.7%) feather patches sampled lie along a continuum of dichromatism between avian and human discriminatory abilities and could represent unrecognized sexually selected signals. Sexual dichromatism in this study rarely resulted from intersexual differences in UV coloration alone, emphasizing the need for analysis of bird coloration in relation to the full extent of avian visual discriminatory abilities, including, but not limited to, UV-visual capabilities.
Project description:Sexual dichromatism is a key proxy for the intensity of sexual selection. Studies of dichromatism in birds may, however, have underestimated the intensity and complexity of sexual selection because they used museum specimens alone without taking colour-fading into account or only measured conspicuous visual traits in live animals. We investigated whether the Himalayan black bulbul (Hypsipetes leucocephalus nigerrimus), which is sexually monomorphic to the human eye, exhibits sexual dichromatism distinguishable by a spectrometer. We measured the reflectance (within both the human visual perceptive and the ultraviolet ranges) of two carotenoid-based parts and eight dull and melanin-based parts for each individual live bird or museum skin sampled. According to an avian model of colour discrimination thresholds, we found that males exhibited perceptibly redder beaks, brighter tarsi and darker plumage than did females. This suggests the existence of multiple cryptic sexually dichromatic traits within this species. Moreover, we also observed detectable colour fading in the museum skin specimens compared with the live birds, indicating that sexual dichromatism could be underestimated if analysed using skin specimens alone.
Project description:For birds, plumage color perception is critical in social interactions such as courtship, in both monochromatic and dichromatic species. In the Eared Dove (Zenaida auriculata), perhaps the most abundant South American Columbiforme, the plumage of males and females looks alike and both sexes share the same melanistic coloration with gray and pink tones. The aim of this study was therefore to determine whether evident sexual dichromatism exists in the plumage of the Eared Dove using a spectrophotometry technique in the avian-visible range (300-700 nm). The results of the classic colorimetric variables analysis (hue, chroma and brightness) show that males are in general brighter and have higher UV chroma values than females. The avian visual model points to differences in achromatic and chromatic levels between males and females in body regions possibly involved in sexual selection (e.g. the crown). The model also indicates chromatic or achromatic differences in body regions not subject to sexual selection such as the black spots on the wing coverts and white tail bands, both of which may be involved in intra- or inter-gender-specific communication.
Project description:Sexual dichromatism is the tendency for sexes to differ in color pattern and represents a striking form of within-species morphological variation. Conspicuous intersexual differences in avian plumage are generally thought to result from Darwinian sexual selection, to the extent that dichromatism is often treated as a surrogate for the intensity of sexual selection in phylogenetic comparative studies. Intense sexual selection is predicted to leave a footprint on genetic evolution by reducing the relative genetic diversity on sex chromosome to that on the autosomes.In this study, we test the association between plumage dichromatism and sex-linked genetic diversity using eight species pairs with contrasting levels of dichromatism. We estimated Z-linked and autosomal genetic diversity for these non-model avian species using restriction-site associated (RAD) loci that covered ~3 % of the genome. We find that monochromatic birds consistently have reduced sex-linked genomic variation relative to phylogenetically-paired dichromatic species and this pattern is robust to mutational biases.Our results are consistent with several interpretations. If present-day sexual selection is stronger in dichromatic birds, our results suggest that its impact on sex-linked genomic variation is offset by other processes that lead to proportionately lower Z-linked variation in monochromatic species. We discuss possible factors that may contribute to this discrepancy between phenotypes and genomic variation. Conversely, it is possible that present-day sexual selection -- as measured by the variance in male reproductive success -- is stronger in the set of monochromatic taxa we have examined, potentially reflecting the importance of song, behavior and other non-plumage associated traits as targets of sexual selection. This counterintuitive finding suggests that the relationship between genomic variation and sexual selection is complex and highlights the need for a more comprehensive survey of genomic variation in avian taxa that vary markedly in social and genetic mating systems.
Project description:Sexual selection is proposed to be an important driver of speciation and phenotypic diversification in animal systems. However, previous phylogenetic tests have produced conflicting results, perhaps because they have focused on a single signalling modality (visual ornaments), whereas sexual selection may act on alternative signalling modalities (e.g. acoustic ornaments). Here, we compile phenotypic data from 259 avian sister species pairs to assess the relationship between visible plumage dichromatism-a standard index of sexual selection in birds-and macroevolutionary divergence in the other major avian signalling modality: song. We find evidence for a strong negative relationship between the degree of plumage dichromatism and divergence in song traits, which remains significant even when accounting for other key factors, including habitat type, ecological divergence and interspecific interactions. This negative relationship is opposite to the pattern expected by a straightforward interpretation of the sexual selection-diversification hypothesis, whereby higher levels of dichromatism indicating strong sexual selection should be related to greater levels of mating signal divergence regardless of signalling modality. Our findings imply a 'trade-off' between the elaboration of visual ornaments and the diversification of acoustic mating signals, and suggest that the effects of sexual selection on diversification can only be determined by considering multiple alternative signalling modalities.
Project description:Birds present a stunning diversity of plumage colors that have long fascinated evolutionary ecologists. Although plumage coloration is often linked to sexual selection, it may impact a number of physiological processes, including microbial resistance. At present, the degree to which differences between pigment-based vs. structural plumage coloration may affect the feather microbiota remains unanswered. Using quantitative PCR and DGGE profiling, we investigated feather microbial load, diversity and community structure among two allopatric subspecies of White-shouldered Fairywren, Malurus alboscapulatus that vary in expression of melanin-based vs. structural plumage coloration. We found that microbial load tended to be lower and feather microbial diversity was significantly higher in the plumage of black iridescent males, compared to black matte females and brown individuals. Moreover, black iridescent males had distinct feather microbial communities compared to black matte females and brown individuals. We suggest that distinctive nanostructure properties of iridescent male feathers or different investment in preening influence feather microbiota community composition and load. This study is the first to point to structural plumage coloration as a factor that may significantly regulate feather microbiota. Future work might explore fitness consequences and the role of microorganisms in the evolution of avian sexual dichromatism, with particular reference to iridescence.
Project description:Investment in current reproduction should come at the expense of traits promoting future reproduction, such as immunity and longevity. To date, comparative studies of pace-of-life traits have provided some support for this, with slower paced species having greater immune function. Another means of investment in current reproduction is through secondary sexual characters (SSC). Investment in SSC's is considered costly, both in terms of immunity and longevity, with greater costs being borne by species with more elaborate traits. Yet within species, females prefer more ornate males and those males are typically immunologically superior. Because of this, predictions about the relationship between immunity and SSC's across species are not clear. If traits are costly, brighter species should have reduced immune function, but the opposite is true if SSC's arise from selection for more immunocompetent individuals. My approach was to investigate immune investment in relation to SSC's, pace-of-life and longevity while considering potentially confounding ecological factors. To do so I assessed leukocyte counts from in a novel group, the Psittaciformes. Investment in SSC's best explained investment in immunity: species with brighter plumage had higher leukocyte counts and those with a greater degree of sexual dichromatism had fewer. Ecological variables and pace-of-life models tended to be poor predictors of immune investment. However, shorter incubation periods were associated with lower leukocyte counts supporting the notion that species with a fast pace-of-life invest less in immunity. These results suggest that investment in reproduction in terms of fast pace-of-life and sexual dichromatism results in reduced immunity; however, investment in plumage colour per se does not impose a cost on immunity across species.
Project description:Avian plumage traits are the targets of both natural and sexual selection. Consequently, genetic changes resulting in plumage variation among closely related taxa might represent important evolutionary events. The molecular basis of such differences, however, is unknown in most cases. Sequence variation in the melanocortin-1 receptor gene (MC1R) is associated with melanistic phenotypes in many vertebrate taxa, including several avian species. The blue-crowned manakin (Lepidothrix coronata), a widespread, sexually dichromatic passerine, exhibits striking geographic variation in male plumage colour across its range in southern Central America and western Amazonia. Northern males are black with brilliant blue crowns whereas southern males are green with lighter blue crowns. We sequenced 810 bp of the MC1R coding region in 23 individuals spanning the range of male plumage variation. The only variable sites we detected among L. coronata sequences were four synonymous substitutions, none of which were strictly associated with either plumage type. Similarly, comparative analyses showed that L. coronata sequences were monomorphic at the three amino acid sites hypothesized to be functionally important in other birds. These results demonstrate that genes other than MC1R underlie melanic plumage polymorphism in blue-crowned manakins.