Breeding synchrony with the lunar cycle has been reported for many marine organisms but is essentially unknown for birds. Most organisms shown to breed synchronously with the lunar cycle provide no parental care to young, and such explosive breeding assemblages are usually promiscuous. Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrows (Ammodramus caudacutus caudacutus) nest exclusively on salt marshes and are subjected to predictable, catastrophic flooding caused during flood tides every 28 days. Here, we show that Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrow males were nonterritorial and promiscuous and provided no parental care to young. Breeding behaviors of both sexes were synchronized with the lunar cycle. By contrast, males of a sympatric sister species, Nelson's Sharp-tailed Sparrow (A. nelsoni subvirgatus), consistently mate-guarded females, and breeding was not synchronized with the lunar cycle, yielding 21% lower reproductive success compared with Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrows. Saltmarsh and Nelson's sharp-tailed sparrows renested 2.9 ± 0.6 (SE) days and 10.3 ± 1.7 days after nest flooding, respectively. Patterns of vicariance between Nelson's and Saltmarsh sharp-tailed sparrows may explain the differences in social behavior and nesting ecology. Ancestral sharp-tailed sparrows diverged from Seaside Sparrows (A. maritimus) in tidal wetlands, and Nelson's Sharp-tailed Sparrows then diverged from Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrows in nontidal freshwater wetlands of interior North America. Nelson's Sharp-tailed Sparrows' range recently expanded into coastal salt marshes, where Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrows are better adapted to tidally influenced inundations. Adaptation to tidal flooding partially explains the evolution of the unique Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrow mating system.
Las Inundaciones Mareales Afectan la Ecología Reproductiva de Dos Especies Simpátricas de Ammodramus