Structural plumage colour and parasites in satin bowerbirds Ptilonorhynchus violaceus: Implications for sexual selection

  • Doucet S
  • Montgomerie R
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We investigated whether variation in structural plumage coloration in satin bower-birds, Ptilonorhynchus violaceus, could reveal the intensity of infection from parasites, as predicted from models of parasite-mediated sexual selection (PMSS). To do this, we captured adult male, female, and juvenile male satin bowerbirds in Queensland, Australia, and objectively measured individual Plumage reflectance from four body regions using a spectrometer. We quantified both ectoparasite load and the intensity of infection from blood parasites. In iridescent blue adult males, plumage reflectance is unimodal, with a single peak in the ultraviolet. while in greenish females and juveniles, plumage reflectance is bimodal, with peaks in both the ultraviolet and green portions of the spectrum. In adult males, the intensity of infection from blood parasites was best predicted by plumage brightness (total reflectance), with brighter males having fewer parasites. Similarly, juvenile males exhibiting greater UV chroma (proportion of reflectance in the UV) had fewer blood parasites. Our findings Support a key prediction of PMSS models and provide the first evidence that a structural colour ornament can signal the intensity of infection from blood parasites.

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  • Stéphanie M. Doucet

  • Robert Montgomerie

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