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Data from: Disruptive viability selection on a black plumage trait associated with dominance

Cite this dataset

Acker, Paul et al. (2015). Data from: Disruptive viability selection on a black plumage trait associated with dominance [Dataset]. Dryad.


Traits used in communication, such as colour signals, are expected to have positive consequences for reproductive success, but their associations with survival are little understood. Previous studies have mainly investigated linear relationships between signals and survival, but both hump-shaped and U-shaped relationships can also be predicted, depending on the main costs involved in trait expression. Furthermore, few studies have taken the plasticity of signals into account in viability selection analyses. The relationship between signal expression and survival is of particular interest in melanin-based traits, because their main costs are still debated. Here, we first determined the main factors explaining variability in a melanin-based trait linked to dominance: the bib size of a colonial bird, the sociable weaver Philetairus socius. We then used these analyses to obtain a measure representative of the individual mean expression of bib size. Finally, we used capture-recapture models to study how survival varied in relation to bib size. Variation in bib size was strongly affected by year and moderately affected by age, body condition and colony size. In addition, individuals bearing small and large bibs had higher survival than those with intermediate bibs, and this U-shaped relationship between survival and bib size appeared to be more pronounced in some years than others. These results constitute a rare example of disruptive viability selection, and point towards the potential importance of social costs incurred by the dominance signalling function of badges of status.

Usage notes


Benfontein Nature Reserve
South Africa
Northern Cape Province