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Carry-over effects of conditions at the wintering grounds on breeding plumage signals in a migratory bird: roles of phenotypic plasticity and selection

journal contribution
posted on 2023-06-09, 15:44 authored by P E Järvistö, S Calhim, Wiebke SchuettWiebke Schuett, P M Sirkiä, W Velmala, T Laaksonen
To understand the consequences of ever-changing environment on the dynamics of phenotypic traits, distinguishing between selection processes and individual plasticity is crucial. We examined individual consistency/plasticity in several male secondary sexual traits expressed during the breeding season (white wing and forehead patch size, UV reflectance of white wing patch and dorsal melanin coloration) in a migratory pied flycatcher (Ficedula hypoleuca) population over an 11-year period. Furthermore, we studied carry-over effects of three environmental variables (NAO, a climatic index; NDVI, a vegetation index; and rainfall) at the wintering grounds (during prebreeding moult) on the expression of these breeding plumage traits of pied flycatcher males at individual and population levels. Whereas NAO correlates negatively with moisture in West Africa, NDVI correlates positively with primary production. Forehead patch size and melanin coloration were highly consistent within individuals among years, whereas the consistency of the other two traits was moderate. Wing patch size decreased with higher NAO and increased with higher rainfall and NDVI at the individual level. Interestingly, small-patched males suffered lower survival during high NAO winters than large-patched males, and vice versa during low NAO winters. These counteracting processes meant that the individual-level change was masked at the population level where no relationship was found. Our results provide a good example of how variation in the phenotypic composition of a natural population can be a result of both environment-dependent individual plasticity and short-term microevolution. Moreover, when plasticity and viability selection operate simultaneously, their impacts on population composition may not be evident.


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  • Published


Journal of Evolutionary Biology









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  • Evolution, Behaviour and Environment Publications

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