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Interspecific variation in plumage colour among birds: species recognition or light environment?

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McNaught, M. K. and Owens, I. P.F. (2002) Interspecific variation in plumage colour among birds: species recognition or light environment? Journal of Evolutionary Biology, 15 (4). pp. 505-514. ISSN 1420-9101


Article Link: https://doi.org/10.1046/j.1420-9101.2002.00431.x


The traditional explanation for interspecific plumage colour variation in birds is that colour differences between species are adaptations to minimize the risk of hybridization. Under this explanation, colour differences between closely related species of birds represent reproductive character displacement. An alternative explanation is that interspecific variation in plumage colour is an adaptive response to variation in light environments across habitats. Under this explanation, differences in colour between closely related species are a product of selection on signal efficiency. We use a comparative approach to examine these two hypotheses, testing the effects of sympatry and habitat use, respectively, on divergence in male plumage colour. Contrary to the prediction of the Species Isolation Hypothesis, we find no evidence that sympatric pairs of species are consistently more divergent in coloration than are allopatric pairs of species. However, in agreement with the Light Environment Hypothesis, we find significant associations between plumage coloration and habitat use. All of these results remain qualitatively unchanged irrespective of the statistical methodology used to compare reflectance spectra, the body regions used in the analyses, or the exclusion of areas of plumage not used in sexual displays. Our results suggest that, in general, interspecific variation in plumage colour among birds is more strongly influenced by the signalling environment than by the risk of hybridization.

Item Type:Article
Subjects:Science > Zoology > Chordates. Vertebrates > Birds
Live Archive:16 Jan 2024 03:50
Last Modified:16 Jan 2024 03:50

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