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The costs and consequences of iridescent coloration in Anna's hummingbirds (Calypte anna)

Description

Colorful ornaments in animals often serve as sexually selected signals of quality. While pigment-based colors are well-studied in these regards, structural colors that result from the interaction of light with

Colorful ornaments in animals often serve as sexually selected signals of quality. While pigment-based colors are well-studied in these regards, structural colors that result from the interaction of light with photonic nanostructures are comparatively understudied in terms of their consequences in social contexts, their costs of production, and even the best way to measure them. Iridescent colors are some of the most brilliant and conspicuous colors in nature, and I studied the measurement, condition-dependence, and signaling role of iridescence in Anna's hummingbirds (Calypte anna). While most animal colors are easily quantified using well-established spectrophotometric techniques, the unique characteristics of iridescent colors present challenges to measurement and opportunities to quantify novel color metrics. I designed and tested an apparatus for careful control and measurement of viewing geometry and highly repeatable measurements. These measurements could be used to accurately characterize individual variation in iridescent Anna's hummingbirds to examine their condition-dependence and signaling role. Next, I examined the literature published to date for evidence of condition-dependence of structural colors in birds. Using meta-analyses, I found that structural colors of all three types - white, ultra-violet/blue, and iridescence - are significantly condition-dependent, meaning that they can convey information about quality to conspecifics. I then investigated whether iridescent colors were condition-dependent in Anna's hummingbirds both in a field correlational study and in an experimental study. Throughout the year, I found that iridescent feathers in both male and female Anna's hummingbirds become less brilliant as they age. Color was not correlated with body condition in any age/sex group. However, iridescent coloration in male Anna's hummingbirds was significantly affected by experimental protein in the diet during feather growth, indicating that iridescent color may signal diet quality. Finally, I examined how iridescent colors were used to mediate social competitions in male and female Anna's hummingbirds. Surprisingly, males that were less colorful won significantly more contests than more colorful males, and colorful males received more aggression. Less colorful males may be attempting to drive away colorful neighbors that may be preferred mates. Female iridescent ornament size and color was highly variable, but did not influence contest outcomes or aggression.

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  • 2012

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The vascular flora of the Eagletail Mountain region

Description

This study identifies the flora of the Eagletail Mountain Region, an area covering approximately 100,600 acres, located in west-central Arizona that includes the Eagletail Mountains, Granite Mountains, portions of the

This study identifies the flora of the Eagletail Mountain Region, an area covering approximately 100,600 acres, located in west-central Arizona that includes the Eagletail Mountains, Granite Mountains, portions of the Harquahala Valley, and Cemetery Ridge near Clanton Well. The region is located about 129 km (80 mi) west of Phoenix and 24 km (15 mi) south of Interstate 10. Plants were collected over a six-year period, beginning September, 2004 and ending May, 2010, including two wet winters and two wet summers. A total of 702 collections were made covering 292 species that represented 63 families. Additional information on the region included in the thesis are: 1) an analysis of the climate, based on 20 years of rainfall records; 2) a description of the geology and its influence on plant distribution; 3) a prehistory and history identifying archeological sites; 4) an analysis of food plants used by the Native Americans that suggests how they were able to live in the region; 5)a paleo-botanical history based on an evaluation of pack-rat midden collections from mountain ranges around the region; 6) a comparison of the trees, shrubs, and perennials of the Eagletail Mountain Region with those of the Sierra Estrella and Kofa Mountains; and 7) a survey of non-native species. The habitats that the plants occupied based on climate and soils included were: 1) the bottoms and sides of sandy/ gravelly washes, 2) bajada slopes-volcanic soils, 3) bajada slopes-granitic sandy soils, 4) slot canyons/rock outcrops, 5) desert pavement, and 6) open valleys. Each habitat has its own characteristic species composition and distribution.

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  • 2012

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Color and communication in Habronattus jumping spiders: tests of sexual and ecological selection

Description

Differences between males and females can evolve through a variety of mechanisms, including sexual and ecological selection. Because coloration is evolutionarily labile, sexually dichromatic species are good models for understanding

Differences between males and females can evolve through a variety of mechanisms, including sexual and ecological selection. Because coloration is evolutionarily labile, sexually dichromatic species are good models for understanding the evolution of sex differences. While many jumping spiders exhibit diverse and brilliant coloration, they have been notably absent from such studies. In the genus Habronattus, females are drab and cryptic while males are brilliantly colored, displaying some of these colors to females during elaborate courtship dances. Here I test multiple hypotheses for the control and function of male color. In the field, I found that Habronattus males indiscriminately court any female they encounter (including other species), so I first examined the role that colors play in species recognition. I manipulated male colors in H. pyrrithrix and found that while they are not required for species recognition, the presence of red facial coloration improves courtship success, but only if males are courting in the sun. Because light environment affects transmission of color signals, the multi-colored displays of males may facilitate communication in variable and unpredictable environments. Because these colors can be costly to produce and maintain, they also have the potential to signal reliable information about male quality to potential female mates. I found that both red facial and green leg coloration is condition dependent in H. pyrrithrix and thus has the potential to signal quality. Yet, surprisingly, this variation in male color does not appear to be important to females. Males of many Habronattus species also exhibit conspicuous markings on the dorsal surface of their abdomens that are not present in females and are oriented away from females during courtship. In the field, I found that these markings are paired with increased leg-waving behavior in a way that resembles the pattern and behavior of wasps; this may provide protection by exploiting the aversions of predators. My data also suggest that different activity levels between the sexes have placed different selection pressures on their dorsal color patterns. Overall, these findings challenge some of the traditional ways that we think about color signaling and provide novel insights into the evolution of animal coloration.

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  • 2012