Mechanisms, function and evolution of plumage coloration

Principal researcher: Juan Carlos Senar

Period: 2006-2009

Plumage coloration signals body condition, experience or dominance status of individuals. This is why in many bird species this coloration is used as a main criterium for mate choice or to choose a social companion. Unfortunatelly, most studies up to now have dealt with a single ornament, or have centered only on partial aspects of the problem. The aim of the current research project is to carry out a multidisciplinary approach to the problem of plumage signal evolution, investigating aspects related to behavioural strategies, physiology, biochemestry and genetics. We use as a main hypothesis that different kinds of colours (based on carotenes, melanins and structural) signal different qualities of the individual. We additionally test for the effects of plumage coloration on proceses as local adaptation and gene flow. This project, therefore, allows for the study of the evolution of signals from a new perspective.

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