Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Dark plumage helps birds survive on small islands

23.07.2015

Animal populations on islands tend to develop weird traits over time, becoming big (like Galapagos tortoises) or small (like extinct dwarf elephants) or losing the ability to fly (like the flightless parrots of New Zealand).

One less-studied pattern of evolution on islands is the tendency for animal populations to develop "melanism"--that is, dark or black coloration. J. Albert Uy and Luis Vargas-Castro of the University of Miami found an ideal species to study this phenomenon in the Chestnut-bellied Monarch (Monarcha castaneiventris), a bird found in the Solomon Islands.


This image shows a typical Chestnut-bellied Monarch (left) vs. a melanic individual (right).

Credit: A. Uy

Most have the chestnut belly suggested by their name, but in the subspecies found in the Russell Islands, a few all-black birds coexist with the chestnut-bellied majority. After visiting 13 islands of varying sizes to survey their Chestnut-bellied Monarch populations, Uy and Vargas-Castro confirm in a new paper published this week in The Auk: Ornithological Advances that island size predicts the frequency of melanic birds, with populations on smaller islands including more dark individuals.

Because the pattern is repeated on island after island, it is very unlikely to have developed through random chance; instead, dark coloration must provide some sort of benefit to birds on small islands.

... more about:
»Ornithology »plumage »subspecies

Studies in mammals and fish have found a genetic link between melanism and aggressive behavior, and Uy and Vargas-Castro speculate that the limited space available on smaller islands makes competition for breeding territories more intense, giving an advantage to the most aggressive individuals.

Previous experiments with other Monarcha castaneiventris subspecies using taxidermied birds and recorded songs have shown that melanic birds react more aggressively than their chestnut-bellied counterparts when they perceive a threat to their territory.

Uy had been fascinated by Chestnut-bellied Monarchs ever since reading a description of their plumage variations in Ernst Mayr's seminal book on speciation, Systematics and the Origin of Species from a Viewpoint of a Zoologist, when he was a graduate student.

"I was hooked and longed to work on the group," he says. "I thought this would be the perfect species to explore these questions about the ecology of plumage diversification and the origin of species, as the variable populations of the chestnut-bellied flycatcher may be at different stages of the speciation process. It took me over a decade to finally manage to get to the Solomons, and I've been working on these flycatchers now for nearly 10 years."

"Patterns of biodiversity on islands have always been important for understanding fundamental principals in ecology and evolution. Using the same archipelago that enchanted Ernst Mayr decades ago, Uy and Vargas-Castro reveal fascinating patterns of melanism and island size," adds Rebecca Safran of the University of Colorado, an expert on divergence between bird populations who was not involved in the study. "These patterns add to the fundamental importance of islands as natural experiments for studies in biodiversity."

"Island size predicts the frequency of melanic birds in the color-polymorphic flycatcher Monarcha castaneiventris of the Solomon Islands" is available at http://www.aoucospubs.org/doi/full/10.1642/AUK-14-284.1.

About the journal: The Auk: Ornithological Advances is a peer-reviewed, international journal of ornithology that began in 1884 as the official publication of the American Ornithologists' Union. In 2009, The Auk was honored as one of the 100 most influential journals of biology and medicine over the past 100 years.

Media Contact

J. Albert Uy
uy@bio.miami.edu

http://www.aoucospubs.org 

J. Albert Uy | EurekAlert!

Further reports about: Ornithology plumage subspecies

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Researchers develop eco-friendly, 4-in-1 catalyst
25.04.2017 | Brown University

nachricht Transfecting cells gently – the LZH presents a GNOME prototype at the Labvolution 2017
25.04.2017 | Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V.

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

7th International Conference on Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaics in Freiburg on April 3-5, 2017

03.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

NASA's Fermi catches gamma-ray flashes from tropical storms

25.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Researchers invent process to make sustainable rubber, plastics

25.04.2017 | Materials Sciences

Transfecting cells gently – the LZH presents a GNOME prototype at the Labvolution 2017

25.04.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>