Accurate assessment of color is essential in testing the adaptive significance of color variation in avian plumage. Over the past decade, use of objective methods for assessing color has increased, with particular emphasis on ultraviolet (UV) wavelengths. Researchers have used various source materials, most notably museum specimens, to extend or represent color measurements of individuals in natural populations. Here, we address whether the colors seen in museum specimens accurately represent the colors seen in natural populations. We focus on UV wavelengths and carotenoid-derived colors across 10 species of wood-warblers (Parulidae). Our results indicate an uneven decrease in brightness across the color spectrum, with greater relative decrease in shorter wavelengths in museum specimens. That decrease leads to differences in both hue and chroma between living and museum specimens. The difference from live specimens appears to increase with the museum specimen's age. Our results suggest that caution is needed when using data from museum specimens to test hypotheses on plumage coloration, particularly those involving communication.
Degradación Ultravioleta en Parches de Carotenoides: Especímenes Vivos versus Especímenes de Museo de Especies de la Familia Parulidae