Integration of spectral reflectance across the plumage: Implications for mating patterns

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Abstract

BACKGROUND: In complex sexual signaling systems such as plumage color, developmental or genetic links may occur among seemingly distinct traits. However, the interrelations of such traits and the functional significance of their integration rarely have been examined.<br /><br />METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: We investigated the parallel variation of two reflectance descriptors (brightness and UV chroma) across depigmented and melanized plumage areas of collared flycatchers (Ficedula albicollis), and the possible role of integrated color signals in mate acquisition. We found moderate integration in brightness and UV chroma across the plumage, with similar correlation structures in the two sexes despite the strong sexual dichromatism. Patterns of parallel color change across the plumage were largely unrelated to ornamental white patch sizes, but they all showed strong assortative mating between the sexes. Comparing different types of assortative mating patterns for individual spectral variables suggested a distinct role for plumage-level color axes in mate acquisition.<br /><br />CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE: Our results indicate that the plumage-level, parallel variation of coloration might play a role in mate acquisition. This study underlines the importance of considering potential developmental and functional integration among apparently different ornaments in studies of sexual selection.

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Laczi, M., Török, J., Rosivall, B., & Hegyi, G. (2011). Integration of spectral reflectance across the plumage: Implications for mating patterns. PLoS ONE, 6(8). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0023201

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