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Title: Sexual selection, breeding systems and melanin-based plumage colouration in plovers Charadrius spp.
Author: Argüelles-Ticó, Araceli
ISNI:       0000 0004 2746 7436
Awarding Body: University of Bath
Current Institution: University of Bath
Date of Award: 2011
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Documenting behavioural and morphological differences across populations reflecting local adaption is of large interest to biologists. Yet, natural, geographic variation in targets and intensity of selection within species has been vastly underexplored. Here I focus on how the extraordinary diversity of breeding systems exhibited across multiple populations of plovers may influence ornamentation. Using data from nine geographically distinct populations of Kentish (Charadrius alexandrinus) and snowy plovers (C nivosus) I explore the variation in brood care and found extensive differences across populations in the duration of care and timing of brood desertion. Biogeographical parameters seem to partly explain the observed diversity of care patterns. I subsequently show that the differences in melanin-based plumage ornamentation across populations were predicted by the breeding system and geographic and climatic factors. I argue that geographic variation in intensity of sexual selection as associated with the diversity in breeding systems may shape individual phenotypes. To corroborate that proposition, I investigate whether the signalling function of the ornaments varies across populations. I show that melanin-based plumage traits are honest signals of parental care in two distinct populations, despite differences between both populations in the extent and direction to which both sexes adjust parental care in response to ornamentation. In my final chapter I aim to explore a potential mechanistic basis of the diversity in ornamentation by investigating correlations between melanic plumage traits. The correlations between plumage traits are highly variable across populations. Such apparent phenotypic plasticity suggests that local selection pressures influence the expression of melanisation. In sum, in my thesis I show that the behavioural and morphological outcomes of local adaptive regimes provide a wealth of diversity in natural history between populations. Exploring this natural variation at a behavioural, physiological and genetic level is likely to substantially advance our understanding of what constitutes a wild animal's phenotype.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available