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Data from: Key ornamental innovations facilitate diversification in an avian radiation


Maia, Rafael; Rubenstein, Dustin R.; Shawkey, Matthew D. (2013), Data from: Key ornamental innovations facilitate diversification in an avian radiation, Dryad, Dataset,


Patterns of biodiversity are often explained by ecological processes, where traits that promote novel ways of interacting with the environment (key innovations) play a fundamental role in promoting diversification. However, sexual selection and social competition can also promote diversification through rapid evolution of ornamental traits. Because selection can operate only on existing variation, the tendency of ornamental traits to constrain or enable the production of novel phenotypes is a crucial but often overlooked aspect of diversification. Starlings are a speciose group characterized by diverse iridescent colors produced by nanometer-scale arrays of melanin-containing organelles (melanosomes) that play a central role in sexual selection and social competition. We show that evolutionary lability of these colors is associated with both morphological and lineage diversification in African starlings. The solid rod-like melanosome morphology has evolved in a directional manner into three more optically complex forms that can produce a broader range of colors than the ancestral form, resulting in (i) faster color evolution, (ii) the occupation of novel, previously unreachable regions of colorspace, and ultimately (iii) accelerated lineage diversification. As in adaptive radiations, key innovations in ornament production can provide high phenotypic trait variability, leading to dramatic effects on the tempo and mode of diversification.

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