A research team at Uppsala University has shown in a new study that the size of the spot on a collared flycatchers forehead is important in the choice of a mating partner and reflects how well the immune defense system combats viruses. The findings are being presented on the home page of the journal Acta Zoologica on March 18 and in the print edition on March 20.
Evolutionary biologists have long attempted to explain why individuals of a species differ in appearance and why the choice of a mate is influenced by behavior and appearance features that cannot reasonably be thought to have any usefulness. Therefore, they have begun to look more and more at the genetics behind what are called secondary sexual characteristics, such as the tail of a peacock, the stripes of the female deep-snouted pipefish, and the white spot on the forehead of the collared flycatcher. In many species both males and females prefer to mate with those who have the largest or most colorful of these ornaments or who have the most complex song, for instance.
One theory says that the ornaments are clearest on individuals that are in good health and that both the size and the condition of the ornament are hereditary. This leads to the question of why evolution did not select the same appearance and good health for all individuals. Is there something in the environment that is constantly changing and can govern the genetics of appearance and health, leading, instead, to diversity?
Anneli Waara | alfa
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