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1 September 2005 CAN SELECTION BY AN ECTOPARASITE DRIVE A POPULATION OF RED CROSSBILLS FROM ITS ADAPTIVE PEAK?
Craig W. Benkman, Joy S. Colquitt, William R. Gould, Trevor Fetz, Patrick C. Keenan, Leonard Santisteban
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Abstract

The bill structures of different call types of red crossbills (Loxia curvirostra complex) in western North America usually approximate the predicted optima for foraging on single species of conifers. One clear exception is the call type in the South Hills, Idaho, that is coevolving in an evolutionary arms race with Rocky Mountain lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta ssp. latifolia). Although South Hills crossbills forage only on the cones of these lodgepole pines, their average bill depth is smaller than that predicted to be optimal. Because preliminary data showed that large-billed males were more likely to exhibit symptoms of ectoparasitic mite (Knemidokoptes jamaicensis) infestation, the goal of our study was to further quantify the incidence of mite infestation and determine whether selection by mites may have favored smaller-billed crossbills and thus driven crossbills away from the foraging optimum. We estimated annual survival of both infected and uninfected South Hills crossbills using program MARK, which allows for auxiliary variables such as bill size and sex to be included in survival analyses. Mite infestation depressed crossbill survival and, especially for males, caused directional selection against larger-billed individuals. Such selection may explain why South Hills crossbills have smaller bills than the optimum and why average bill size for males has decreased from 1998 to 2003. This selection may also explain why the degree of sexual size dimorphism has decreased by nearly 50% since 1998.

Craig W. Benkman, Joy S. Colquitt, William R. Gould, Trevor Fetz, Patrick C. Keenan, and Leonard Santisteban "CAN SELECTION BY AN ECTOPARASITE DRIVE A POPULATION OF RED CROSSBILLS FROM ITS ADAPTIVE PEAK?," Evolution 59(9), 2025-2032, (1 September 2005). https://doi.org/10.1554/04-725.1
Received: 2 December 2004; Accepted: 21 June 2005; Published: 1 September 2005
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