Geographic variation in the plumage pattern of birds is widespread but poorly understood, and in very few cases has its evolutionary significance been investigated experimentally. Neotropical warblers of the genus Myioborus use their contrasting black-and-white plumage to flush insect prey during animated foraging displays. Although previous experimental work has demonstrated that white plumage patches are critical to flush-pursuit foraging success, the amount of white in the plumage shows considerable interspecific and intraspecific geographic variation. We investigated the evolutionary significance of this geographic variation by experimentally decreasing or increasing the amount of white in the tail of slate-throated redstarts (Myioborus miniatus comptus) from Monteverde, Costa Rica, to mimic the natural extremes of tail pattern variation in this species. In addition to measuring the effects of plumage manipulation on foraging performance, we performed field experiments measuring the escape response of a common insect prey species (an asilid fly) using model redstarts representing four different Myioborus plumage patterns. Our experiments were designed to test four hypotheses that could explain geographic variation in plumage pattern. Compared to controls, experimental birds with reduced-white tails that mimic the plumage pattern of M. miniatus hellmayri of Guatemala showed significant reductions in flush-pursuit foraging performance. In contrast, the addition of white to the tail to mimic the plumage pattern of M. miniatus verticalis of Bolivia had no significant effect on foraging performance of Costa Rican redstarts. In field experiments with asilid flies, model redstarts simulating the plumage of M. miniatus comptus of Costa Rica and M. miniatus verticalis of Bolivia elicited greater responses than did models of other Myioborus taxa with either less or more white in the plumage. The results of our experiments with both birds and insects allow us to reject two hypotheses for geographic variation in plumage pattern: (1) that geographic variation is a nonadaptive result of genetic drift, and (2) that selection for enhanced flush-pursuit foraging performance generally favors increased white in the plumage, but evolutionary trade-offs constrain the evolution of extensive patches of white in some geographic regions. Instead, our results suggest that geographic variation in the plumage pattern of Myioborus redstarts reflects adaptation to regional habitat characteristics that enhances flush-pursuit foraging performance.
You have requested a machine translation of selected content from our databases. This functionality is provided solely for your convenience and is in no way intended to replace human translation. Neither BioOne nor the owners and publishers of the content make, and they explicitly disclaim, any express or implied representations or warranties of any kind, including, without limitation, representations and warranties as to the functionality of the translation feature or the accuracy or completeness of the translations.
Translations are not retained in our system. Your use of this feature and the translations is subject to all use restrictions contained in the Terms and Conditions of Use of the BioOne website.
Vol. 60 • No. 5