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Male receiver bias for red agonistic signalling in a yellow-signalling widowbird: a field experiment

Journal article
Authors C. E. Ninnes
Staffan Andersson
Published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B-Biological Sciences
Volume 281
Issue 1790
ISSN 0962-8452
Publication year 2014
Published at Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences
Language en
Links dx.doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2014.0971
Keywords pre-existing receiver bias, sexual selection, status signalling, signal evolution, Euplectes, carotenoid, SEXUAL SELECTION, AGELAIUS-PHOENICEUS, PREEXISTING BIAS, EUPLECTES SPP., TAIL LENGTH, ALTERNATIVE HYPOTHESES, SHOULDERED WIDOWBIRDS, COLLARED, WIDOWBIRDS, SPECIES RECOGNITION, WINGED BLACKBIRD, Biology, Ecology, Evolutionary Biology, KERT CG, 1987, BEHAVIORAL ECOLOGY AND SOCIOBIOLOGY, V20, P43, SIGN OF ANIMAL SIGNALLING SYSTEMS, OCT 28-29, 1992, LONDON, ENGLAND, V340, P207, SIGN OF ANIMAL SIGNALLING SYSTEMS, OCT 28-29, 1992, LONDON, ENGLAND, V340, P187
Subject categories Zoology

Abstract

Receiver bias models of signal evolution are typically regarded as alternatives or complements to ornament evolution due to coevolving mate choice, whereas sexually or socially selected agonistic signals are rarely studied with respect to receiver psychology. Against the background of convergent evolution of red agonistic signals from yellow ancestors in the genus Euplectes (widowbirds and bishops), we experimentally test the function of a yellow signal in the montane marsh widowbird (E. psammocromius), as well as a hypothesized receiver bias for redder (longer wavelength) hues. In a field experiment in southern Tanzania, males that had their yellow wing patches blackened lost their territories or lost territorial contests more often than controls or reddened males, which together with a longer wavelength hue in territory holders, indicates an agonistic signal function. Males painted a novel red hue, matching that of red-signalling congeners, retained their territories and won contests more often than controls. To our knowledge, this is the first demonstration of a receiver bias driving agonistic signal evolution. Although the sensory or cognitive origin of this bias is yet unknown, it strengthens our view that genetically constrained signal production (i.e. carotenoid metabolism), rather than differential selection, explains the carotenoid colour diversification in Euplectes.

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