Ultraviolet signals in birds are special

Hausmann, F., Arnold, K. E., Marshall, N. J. and Owens, I. P. F. (2003) Ultraviolet signals in birds are special. Proceedings of The Royal Society of London Series B-biological Sciences, 270 1510: 61-67. doi:10.1098/rspb.2002.2200

Author Hausmann, F.
Arnold, K. E.
Marshall, N. J.
Owens, I. P. F.
Title Ultraviolet signals in birds are special
Journal name Proceedings of The Royal Society of London Series B-biological Sciences   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 0962-8452
Publication date 2003-01-01
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1098/rspb.2002.2200
Open Access Status Not yet assessed
Volume 270
Issue 1510
Start page 61
End page 67
Total pages 7
Editor Prof. R. McN. Alexander
Place of publication London, UK
Publisher The Royal Society
Language eng
Subject C1
270707 Sociobiology and Behavioural Ecology
780105 Biological sciences
Abstract Recent behavioural experiments have shown that birds use ultraviolet (UV)-reflective and fluorescent plumage as cues in mate choice. It remains controversial, however, whether such UV signals play a special role in sexual communication, or whether they are part of general plumage coloration. We use a comparative approach to test for a general association between sexual signalling and either UV-reflective or fluorescent plumage. Among the species surveyed, 72% have UV colours and there is a significant positive association between UV reflectance and courtship displays. Among parrots (Psittaciformes), 68% of surveyed species have fluorescent plumage, and again there is a strong positive association between courtship displays and fluorescence. These associations are not artefacts of the plumage used in courtship displays, being generally more 'colourful' because there is no association between display and colours lacking UV reflectance or fluorescence. Equally, these associations are not phylogenetic artefacts because all results remain unchanged when families or genera, rather than species, are used as independent data points. We also find that, in parrots, fluorescent plumage is usually found adjacent to UV-reflective plumage. Using a simple visual model to examine one parrot, the budgerigar Melopsittacus undulatus, we show that the juxtaposition of UV-reflective and fluorescent plumage leads to a 25-fold increase in chromatic contrast to the budgerigar's visual system. Taken together, these results suggest that signals based on UV contrast are of special importance in the context of active sexual displays. We review briefly six hypotheses on why this may be the case: suitability for short-range signalling; high contrast with backgrounds; invisibility to predators; exploitation of pre-existing sensory biases; advertisement of feather structure; and amplification of behavioural signals.
Keyword Biology
Sexual Selection
Ultraviolet Reflectance
Mate Choice
Sexual Dimorphism
Zebra Finches
Blue Tits
Plumage Colors
Visual Ecology
Oil Droplets
Q-Index Code C1

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Created: Wed, 15 Aug 2007, 11:19:41 EST