, Volume 28, Issue 1, pp 15-20
Date: 19 Feb 2009

Bowers of the Great Bowerbird (Chlamydera nuchalis) remained unburned after fire: is this an adaptation to fire?

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access


Fire plays an important role in the evolution of life-history characteristics of organisms living in fire-prone regions. Although there are many reports of plants exhibiting adaptations to reduce the harmful or lethal effects of fire, little is known about fire-resistance mechanisms among animals, other than fleeing responses. Here, we report observations that may represent a type of fire adaptation in a bird species: bowers in one population of the Great Bowerbird Chlamydera nuchalis remained unburned after fire. If a bower is destroyed by fire or other mechanisms during courtship and breeding season, the male may lose the opportunity to mate with females, thereby reducing his apparent fitness. Therefore, traits that minimise the damage to bowers from fires may be beneficial. By measuring the unburned areas surrounding bowers after fires, we showed that the survival of bowers after fires is unlikely to be solely related to chance. Our observations are consistent with the hypothesis that bower resistance to fire is an adaptation of the Great Bowerbird. However, it is also possible that unburned bowers are by-products of sexual selection.