Sexual dimorphism and modes of sexual selection in lekking Jackson's widowbirds Euplectes jacksoni (Ploceinae)

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Sexual dimorphism in size and plumage was investigated in the lek-breeding Jackson's widowbird Euplectes jacksoni. Size dimorphism was evident from the sexual difference in tarsus length, reflecting skeletal body size. The long tail and the wide collar of breeding plumaged males were obvious secondary sex traits, but the wing was also longer than in subadults and might likewise be sexually selected (i.e. not merely a byproduct of body size). Possibly, the increased wingspan functions to save energy during the jump display. To reveal intrasexual selection, courtholders were compared with floaters (nuptial males captured off the leks), and were found to be larger in body size, wing length, collar and tail. The roles of inter- and intrasexual selection are discussed with reference to previously demonstrated female choice, and new results indicating competition for access to leks: quick reoccupation of deserted display courts, frequent observations of intruders and a finding that central males were more aggressive than peripherals. Observations imply that the collar is an agonistic signal that is neutral with respect to female choice. Possible contributions of natural selection to the sexual dimorphism are also considered.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Plumage
  • body size
  • intersexual selection
  • intrasexual selection
  • lek

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