Curse of the black spot: spotting negatively correlate with fitness in black grouse Lyrurus tetrix

Soulsbury, Carl, Kervinen, Matti and Lebigre, Christophe (2016) Curse of the black spot: spotting negatively correlate with fitness in black grouse Lyrurus tetrix. Behavioral Ecology, 27 (5). pp. 1362-1369. ISSN 1045-2249

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There is growing evidence that achromatic plumage can act as honest indicators of male quality. In some species with areas of white plumage, black melanin spots can be found on parts of the feathers. The functional significance of these spots and the relationship with male quality is yet poorly understood. We investigated the relationship between black melanin spots in an otherwise totally white ornament, the undertail covert, in relation to age, fitness and covariance with past and present expression of sexual traits, in the lekking black grouse Lyrurus tetrix. We found that spots at tips of feathers (tip spots) were negatively related to survival and reproductive success, and covaried negatively with current fighting rate. They also covaried positively with past fighting rate, suggesting high investment in fighting leads to carryover effects on male condition. In contrast, spots found further down the feather (vane spots) were unrelated to fitness and morphological and behavioural trait expression. Our results show that melanin spots can indicate some relationship with male quality and that the location of the spots has some importance in this relationship. However, the exact drivers of melanin spot expression and how these link to male quality, are currently unknown.

Keywords:achromatic, melanin, lekking, JCOpen
Subjects:C Biological Sciences > C182 Evolution
C Biological Sciences > C300 Zoology
C Biological Sciences > C100 Biology
Divisions:College of Science > School of Life Sciences
ID Code:22588
Deposited On:10 Mar 2016 18:23

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