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No evidence for potential sexual information from a monochromatic carotenoid trait in a dichromatic woodpecker species

Abstract

We investigated potential information content in red carotenoid-based undertail coverts of 28 pairs of breeding Great Spotted Woodpeckers by comparing plumage reflectance to measures of body condition and reproductive success. Plumage coloration was not significantly associated with sex or age, and did not correlate with body condition or the number of offspring fledged. Further, we found no evidence of assortative mating related to plumage colour. Our research provides an example of an exception from the commonly held hypothesis that carotenoid-based plumage coloration signals individual condition. Future surveys incorporating other plumage traits and physiological measures of condition in Great Spotted Woodpeckers are needed to verify our findings.

Zusammenfassung

Keine Belege für den potenziellen sexuellen Informationsgehalt eines monochromatischen Carotinoidmerkmals bei einer dichromatischen Spechtart. Wir haben den potenziellen Informationsgehalt der roten carotinoidbasierten Unterschwanzdecken von 28 Buntspecht-Brutpaaren untersucht, indem wir die Reflexion des Gefieders mit Maßen der Köperkondition und des Fortpflanzungserfolgs verglichen haben. Die Gefiederfärbung hing nicht signifikant mit Geschlecht oder Alter zusammen und korrelierte nicht mit der Körperkondition oder der Anzahl ausgeflogener Jungvögel. Zudem fanden wir keine Belege für assortative Paarung in Bezug auf die Gefiederfärbung. Unsere Forschung liefert ein Beispiel für eine Ausnahme von der allgemein vertretenen Hypothese, dass carotinoidbasierte Gefiederfärbung die individuelle Kondition signalisiert. Zukünftige Studien, die andere Gefiedermerkmale und physiologische Konditionsmaße von Buntspechten betrachten, sind nötig, um unsere Befunde zu bestätigen.

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Data availability (data transparency)

The data that support the findings of this study are available from the corresponding author upon reasonable request.

Code availability (software application or custom code)

Not applicable.

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Acknowledgements

We would like to acknowledge Jacek Więckowski and Aleksandra Kraśkiewicz for their assistance during fieldwork. We are very grateful to Lynn Siefferman for her valuable comments on early version of the manuscript and help with language revision. Jakub Z. Kosicki and Thomas White generously shared with us their vast knowledge on pavo. Handling editor corrected English in the final version of the manuscript.

Funding

ŁM and ŁD were supported by the statutory funding No. 506. 511.09.00 of the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine and Animal Science Poznan University of Life Sciences, Poland; Department of Zoology.

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Correspondence to Adrian Surmacki.

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This research was conducted in accordance with the Polish law (Article 52, § 2 of Nature Conservation Act) and scientific permit to capture and band birds (licence No. 235/2017 issued by Ornithological Station, Museum and Institute of Zoology, Polish Academy of Science).

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Communicated by I. Moore.

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Surmacki, A., Zduniak, P., Dylewski, Ł. et al. No evidence for potential sexual information from a monochromatic carotenoid trait in a dichromatic woodpecker species. J Ornithol 163, 967–975 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10336-022-02001-3

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Keywords

  • Colour
  • Biometry
  • Dendrocopos major
  • Mate choice
  • Primary cavity nester
  • Sexual selection