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Data from: Selection, constraint and the evolution of coloration in African starlings

Cite this dataset

Maia, Rafael; Rubenstein, Dustin R.; Shawkey, Matthew D. (2016). Data from: Selection, constraint and the evolution of coloration in African starlings [Dataset]. Dryad.


Colorful plumage plays a prominent role in evolution of birds, influencing communication (sexual/social selection) and crypsis (natural selection). Comparative studies have focused primarily upon these selective pressures, but the mechanisms underlying color production can also be important by constraining the color gamut upon which selection acts. Iridescence is particularly interesting to study the interaction between selection and color-producing mechanisms because a broad range of colors can be produced with a shared template, and innovations to this template further expand this by increasing the parameters interacting to produce colors. We examine the patterns of ornamentation and dichromatism evolution in African starlings, a group remarkably diverse in color production mechanisms, social systems, and ecologies. We find that the presence of iridescence is ancestral to the group, being predominantly lost in females and cooperative breeders, as well as species with less labile templates. Color-producing mechanisms interact and are the main predictors of plumage ornamentation and elaboration, with little influence of selective pressures in their evolution. Dichromatism, however is influenced by social system and the loss of iridescence. Our results show the importance of considering both selection and constraints, and the different roles that they may have, in the evolution of ornamentation and dimorphism.

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