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Data for Evolution of the preformative molt in Cardinalidae

Cite this dataset

GUALLAR, SANTIAGO; Pyle, Peter; Rueda-Hernández, Rafael (2021). Data for Evolution of the preformative molt in Cardinalidae [Dataset]. Dryad.


We explored adaptive factors affecting the preformative molt in the passerine family Cardinalidae, and concluded that the ancestor inhabited forest habitats and underwent a partial preformative molt that included wing coverts but not primaries. Later radiations within the family appeared to be characterized by transitions from forests toward more open habitats, and such transitions also correlated positively with increased preformative molt investment, plumage signaling, and flight. While previous studies had highlighted the role of time and energy constraints in the evolution of the preformative molt in passerines, we conclude that adaptation to the physical environment has had a greater influence than constraints on the evolution of this molt in Cardinalidae. Using molt data from 430 individuals from 41 of the 51 Cardinalidae species, we tested whether social and environmental factors (delayed plumage maturation and habitat openness), as well as that of physiological and time constraints (body mass, migration distance and breeding latitude) have influenced the evolution of the preformative molt in this family. We predicted that these five factors could relate to the extent of the preformative molt in terms of energy investment, plumage signaling and flight. We also examined whether or not the presence of an auxiliary preformative molt correlated to the extent of the preformative molt. We found a strong phylogenetic signal for the preformative molt in Cardinalidae due to shared ancestry, with habitat openness correlating significantly with increased molt extent. We also found a very strong relationship with the auxiliary preformative molt, indicating that both episodes form part of the early life molt strategy in this family. Evolutionary histories and the environments to which each taxonomic group has adapted can diverge across passerines, and we expect that future studies will further discover the nature and strength of the evolutionary drivers of preformative molt.


Molt information from museum specimens and field captures in banding stations.

Natural history information gleaned from Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive and Dunning (2007).

Phylogenetic subset downloaded from

Data used in phylogenetic analyses. R code developed by Santi Guallar.