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Sexual conflict predicts morphology and behavior in two species of penduline tits

van Dijk, R.E., Pogany, A., Komdeur, J., Lloyd, P. and Szekely, T. (2010) Sexual conflict predicts morphology and behavior in two species of penduline tits. BMC Evolutionary Biology, 10. Art no.107. ISSN 1471-2148

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Abstract

Background: The evolutionary interests of males and females rarely coincide (sexual conflict), and these conflicting interests influence morphology, behavior and speciation in various organisms. We examined consequences of variation in sexual conflict in two closely-related passerine birds with contrasting breeding systems: the Eurasian penduline tit Remiz pendulinus (EPT) exhibiting a highly polygamous breeding system with sexually antagonistic interests over parental care, and the socially monogamous Cape penduline tit Anthoscopus minutus (CPT). We derived four a priori predictions from sexual conflict theory and tested these using data collected in Central Europe (EPT) and South Africa (CPT). Firstly, we predicted that EPTs exhibit more sexually dimorphic plumage than CPTs due to more intense sexual selection. Secondly, we expected brighter EPT males to provide less care than duller males. Thirdly, since song is a sexually selected trait in many birds, male EPTs were expected to exhibit more complex songs than CPT males. Finally, intense sexual conflict in EPT was expected to lead to low nest attendance as an indication of sexually antagonistic interests, whereas we expected more cooperation between parents in CPT consistent with their socially monogamous breeding system.

Results: Consistent with our predictions EPTs exhibited greater sexual dimorphism in plumage and more complex song than CPTs, and brighter EPT males provided less care than duller ones. EPT parents attended the nest less frequently and less simultaneously than CPT parents.

Conclusions: These results are consistent with sexual conflict theory: species in which sexual conflict is more manifested (EPT) exhibited a stronger sexual dimorphism and more elaborated sexually selected traits than species with less intense sexual conflict (CPT). Our results are also consistent with the notion that EPTs attempt to force their partner to work harder as expected under sexual conflict: each member of the breeding pair attempts to shift the costs of care to the other parent. More brightly colored males benefit more from desertion than dull ones, because they are more likely to remate with a new female. Taken together, the comparison between two closely related species with contrasting breeding systems suggest that sexual conflict over care has influenced the evolution of behavior and morphology in penduline tits.

Item Type: Article
Copyright, Publisher and Additional Information: © 2010 van Dijk et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Keywords: Remiz-Pendulinus; Mate Desertion; Mating System; Parental Care; Reproductive Success; Copulation Behaviour; Sperm Competition; Clutch Desertion; Selection; Birds
Institution: The University of Sheffield
Academic Units: The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Science (Sheffield) > School of Biological Sciences (Sheffield) > Department of Animal and Plant Sciences (Sheffield)
Depositing User: Miss Anthea Tucker
Date Deposited: 16 Jun 2010 12:27
Last Modified: 09 Jun 2014 16:34
Published Version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/1471-2148-10-107
Status: Published
Publisher: BioMed Central
Refereed: Yes
Identification Number: 10.1186/1471-2148-10-107
URI: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/10867

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