Skip to main content
Dryad logo

Male-like female morphs in hummingbirds: the evolution of a widespread sex-limited plumage polymorphism

Citation

Diamant, Eleanor; Falk, Jay J.; Rubenstein, Dustin R. (2021), Male-like female morphs in hummingbirds: the evolution of a widespread sex-limited plumage polymorphism, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5068/D1XD43

Abstract

Differences in the way males and females look or behave are common in animals. However, discrete variation within sexes (sex-limited polymorphism) also occurs in several vertebrate and invertebrate lineages. In birds, female-limited polymorphism (FLP) in which some females resemble males in coloration is most prominent in hummingbirds, a group known for its morphological and behavioural sexual dimorphism. Yet, it remains unclear whether this intrasexual colour variation in hummingbirds arises through direct selection on females, or indirectly as a non-adaptive byproduct resulting from selection on males. Here, we analysed specimens from more than 300 hummingbird species to determine the extent, evolutionary history and function of FLP. We found that FLP evolved independently in every major clade and occurs in nearly 25% of hummingbird species. Using phylogenetically informed analyses, we rejected non-adaptive hypotheses that FLP is the result of indirect selection or pleiotropy across species. Instead, FLP is associated with ecology, migratory status, and marginally with social dominance, suggesting a socioecological benefit to females. Ultimately, we show that FLP is not only widespread in hummingbirds and likely adaptive, but may also be useful for understanding the evolution of female ornamentation in systems under strong sexual selection.

Funding

Wilson Ornithological Society

Columbia University