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Male fairy-wrens produce and maintain vibrant breeding colors irrespective of individual quality

journal contribution
posted on 2021-01-01, 00:00 authored by Alexandra McQueenAlexandra McQueen, Kaspar Delhey, Flavia R Barzan, Annalise C Naimo, Anne Peters
Conspicuous colors may signal individual quality if high-quality individuals produce more elaborate colors or have a greater capacity to invest in color maintenance. We investigate these hypotheses using repeated within-individual observations and experimentally induced color production in a wild bird, the superb fairy-wren (Malurus cyaneus). Male superb fairy-wrens undergo an annual molt from brown, nonbreeding plumage to an ultraviolet-blue and black breeding plumage. Color maintenance is especially relevant for this species because structural, ultraviolet-blue plumage colors are particularly susceptible to fading. Further, only the most sexually attractive males molt to breeding plumage early (before spring) and thereby keep their colors for an extended time before the breeding season. Our results show that (i) sexually attractive, early-molting males do not have higher quality breeding colors and (ii) breeding colors are not impacted by experimentally inducing males to molt early and while in low body condition. We found that (iii) breeding colors do not fade but remain consistent or become more saturated within individuals over time. Despite this, (iv) males do not spend more time preening while in breeding plumage. Instead, males keep their colors in pristine condition by re-molting parts of their breeding plumage throughout the breeding season, suggesting an alternative, potential cost of maintaining ornamental colors. We conclude that variation in structural breeding colors is unlikely to indicate individual quality in superb fairy-wrens.

History

Journal

Behavioral Ecology

Volume

32

Issue

1

Season

January-February

Pagination

178 - 187

Publisher

Oxford University Press

Location

Oxford, Eng.

ISSN

1045-2249

eISSN

1465-7279

Language

eng

Publication classification

C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal