Evol Ecol Res 10: 559-574 (2008)     Full PDF if your library subscribes.

Correlated variation of colour between melanin and carotenoid pigmented plumage areas in great tits

Gergely Hegyi,1,2* Beáta Szigeti,1 Miklós Laczi,1 Marcel Eens2 and János Török1

1Behavioural Ecology Group, Department of Systematic Zoology and Ecology, Eötvös Loránd University, Pázmány Péter sétány 1/C, H-1117 Budapest, Hungary and  2Department of Biology, University of Antwerp, Campus Drie Eiken, Universiteitsplein 1, B-2610 Wilrijk, Belgium

Author to whom all correspondence should be addressed.
e-mail: everest@ludens.elte.hu


Questions: Are carotenoid and melanin pigmented plumage colour signals independent traits? Is the correlated variation between the two traits condition-dependent and sexually selected?

Background: Previous studies suggested that carotenoid- and melanin-based traits provided different information, but did not assess their correlation or shared information content.

Data description: We recorded reflectance spectra of the black crown and yellow breast plumage of male and female great tits (Parus major) after the summer moult (2 years, 192 birds) and during the breeding season (3 years, 126 birds). We used the growth rate of tail feathers as an index of body condition during moult.

Search method: We ran common principal components analyses of crown and breast spectra to identify correlated variation in spectral elevation and spectral shape. We examined the consistency of the shared colour axes between autumn and spring. We used the autumn data to estimate the condition-dependence of the seasonally consistent shared colour axes. Finally, as a measure of sexual selection, we used the spring data to quantify assortative mating patterns in relation to correlated colour variation. We controlled for year- and age-related differences in all analyses.

Conclusions: More than 70% of spectral shape variation in the two plumage regions was correlated. The main directions of correlated variation were similar in autumn and spring. A main axis of spectral covariation reflected body condition during moult. The birds showed significant assortative mating for the same axis.

Keywords: carotenoid, condition dependence, good genes, melanin, multiple signals, Parus major, plumage colour, sexual selection.

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