Plumage reflectance and the objective assessment of avian sexual dichromatism

Cuthill, I. C., Bennett, A. T. D., Partridge, J. C. and Maier, E. J. 1999, Plumage reflectance and the objective assessment of avian sexual dichromatism, American Naturalist, vol. 153, no. 2, pp. 183-200.

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Title Plumage reflectance and the objective assessment of avian sexual dichromatism
Author(s) Cuthill, I. C.
Bennett, A. T. D.ORCID iD for Bennett, A. T. D.
Partridge, J. C.
Maier, E. J.
Journal name American Naturalist
Volume number 153
Issue number 2
Start page 183
End page 200
Publisher University of Chicago Press
Place of publication Chicago, Ill.
Publication date 1999-02
ISSN 0003-0147
Summary Assessment of color using human vision (or standards based thereon) is central to tests of many evolutionary hypotheses. Yet fundamental differences in color Vision between humans and other animals call this approach into question. Here we use techniques for objectively assessing color patterns that avoid reliance on species-specific (e.g., human) perception. Reflectance spectra are the invariant features that we expect the animal's color cognition to have evolved to extract. We performed multivariate analyses on principal components derived from >2,600 reflectance spectra (300-720 nm) sampled in a stratified random design from different body regions of male and female starlings in breeding plumage. Starlings possess spatially complex plumage patterns and extensive areas of iridescence. Our study revealed previously unnoticed sex differences in plumage coloration and the nature of iridescent and noniridescent sex differences. Sex differences occurred in some body regions bur not others, were more pronounced at some wavelengths (both ultraviolet and human visible), and involved differences in mean reflectance and spectral shape. Discriminant analysis based on principal components were sufficient to sex correctly 100% of our sample. If hidden sexual dichromatism is widespread, then it has important implications for classifications of animals as mono- or dimorphic and for taxonomic and conservation purposes.
Language eng
Field of Research 059999 Environmental Sciences not elsewhere classified
HERDC Research category C1.1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal
Copyright notice ©1999, University of Chicago Press
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