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Am Nat. 2007 Jan;169 Suppl 1:S81-92. doi: 10.1086/510140.

Color signals in the black grouse (Tetrao tetrix): signal properties and their condition dependency.

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  • 1Department of Biological and Environmental Science, University of Jyväskylä, PO Box 35, FI-40014 Jyväskylä, Finland. hesasi@bytl.jyu.fi.


Recent progress in techniques of quantifying between-individual differences of color-based ornaments has revealed undiscovered possibilities for research in sexual selection. We present how the color spectra data can be comprehensively used for studying the importance of sexual ornaments in the black grouse and how these ornaments are related to a male condition. For this, we used both correlative field and experimental data. Field data indicated that older males had more chromatic coloration than yearlings. Blue chroma of males was correlated with male mating success. We experimentally manipulated yearling birds with testosterone implants and found that testosterone-implanted males had impaired expression of several sexual ornaments: 10 months after the implantation, both structural-based blue and carotenoid-based red eye comb coloration were diminished, as well as lyre (tail) length. However, the manipulation did not affect vital traits under natural selection (wing length or body mass). Our data indicate that structural color is an important trait in sexual selection in this lekking species. Importantly, the data also indicate that male sexual ornaments are more susceptible to environmental conditions than the other male traits, thus showing their heightened condition dependency compared with the other traits mediating the honesty of signaling.

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