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Title: Behavioural plasticity of a sexually selected trait in a changing world : a case study using bird song
Author: Montague, M. J.
ISNI:       0000 0004 5372 6147
Awarding Body: Queen's University Belfast
Current Institution: Queen's University Belfast
Date of Award: 2014
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Phenotypic plasticity is the ability of a genotype to express different phenotypes in response to different environments. Adaptation determines the functional relationships between and within-traits, i.e., phenotypic integration (the correlation between trait components), and plasticity integration (the covariation of the plasticity of trait components). The rapidity of behaviourally plastic responses to novel selective pressures could facilitate the subsequent emergence of less rapidly evoked aspects of the plastic phenotype, including microevolutionary change. Therefore, behavioural plasticity could be crucial in mediating species' adjustment and ultimate adaptation to novel environments. Novel environments may destabilise the optimum between ecological and sexual selection because plastic adjustment of sexually selected traits could negatively impact individual fitness. Therefore, the plasticity of sexually selected traits may have a disproportionate effect on population viability in novel environments. This thesis describes how I used playback experiment exposure of anthropogenic noise on an acoustic signal, passerine song, to model the phenotypic plasticity of a sexually selected trait in response to an evolutionarily novel selective pressure. The species-typical song minimum frequency predicted that of the noise-associated song minimum frequency increase, indicating that ies actively increase minimum frequency to gain masking release. Some species reduced song complexity, a male quality indicator. Moreover, there were species differences in the plasticity and integration of song. Differences were determined by song spectral overlap with noise, which interacted with the plasticity integration of lowest syllable peak frequency resulting in differing effects on features of song structure mainly related to, first, sound proportion, which may be influenced by phylogeny, and, second, temporal patterning. Different environments had no effect on the strength of phenotypic integration within species, indicating trait cohesion was maintained. Species differences in plasticity and integration suggest differences in capacity to make plastic responses to novel selection pressures. Therefore, species may differ in their vulnerability to environmental change.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available