Article: article from journal or magazin.
Local adaptation and matching habitat choice in female barn owls with respect to melanic coloration.
Journal of Evolutionary Biology
Local adaptation is a major mechanism underlying the maintenance of phenotypic variation in spatially heterogeneous environments. In the barn owl (Tyto alba), dark and pale reddish-pheomelanic individuals are adapted to conditions prevailing in northern and southern Europe, respectively. Using a long-term dataset from Central Europe, we report results consistent with the hypothesis that the different pheomelanic phenotypes are adapted to specific local conditions in females, but not in males. Compared to whitish females, reddish females bred in sites surrounded by more arable fields and less forests. Colour-dependent habitat choice was apparently beneficial. First, whitish females produced more fledglings when breeding in wooded areas, whereas reddish females when breeding in sites with more arable fields. Second, cross-fostering experiments showed that female nestlings grew wings more rapidly when both their foster and biological mothers were of similar colour. The latter result suggests that mothers should particularly produce daughters in environments that best match their own coloration. Accordingly, whiter females produced fewer daughters in territories with more arable fields. In conclusion, females displaying alternative melanic phenotypes bred in habitats providing them with the highest fitness benefits. Although small in magnitude, matching habitat selection and local adaptation may help maintain variation in pheomelanin coloration in the barn owl.
colour polymorphism, dispersal, local adaptation, matching habitat choice, melanin, natural selection, sex ratio
Web of science
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