Matching Items (12)

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Developmental plasticity: the influence of neonatal diet and immune challenges on carotenoid-based ornamental coloration and adult immune function in mallard ducks

Description

Conditions during development can shape the expression of traits at adulthood, a phenomenon called developmental plasticity. In this context, factors such as nutrition or health state during development can affect

Conditions during development can shape the expression of traits at adulthood, a phenomenon called developmental plasticity. In this context, factors such as nutrition or health state during development can affect current and subsequent physiology, body size, brain structure, ornamentation, and behavior. However, many of the links between developmental and adult phenotype are poorly understood. I performed a series of experiments using a common molecular currency - carotenoid pigments - to track somatic and reproductive investments through development and into adulthood. Carotenoids are red, orange, or yellow pigments that: (a) animals must acquire from their diets, (b) can be physiologically beneficial, acting as antioxidants or immunostimulants, and (c) color the sexually attractive features (e.g., feathers, scales) of many animals. I studied how carotenoid nutrition and immune challenges during ontogeny impacted ornamental coloration and immune function of adult male mallard ducks (Anas platyrhynchos). Male mallards use carotenoids to pigment their yellow beak, and males with more beaks that are more yellow are preferred as mates, have increased immune function, and have higher quality sperm. In my dissertation work, I established a natural context for the role that carotenoids and body condition play in the formation of the adult phenotype and examined how early-life experiences, including immune challenges and dietary access to carotenoids, affect adult immune function and ornamental coloration. Evidence from mallard ducklings in the field showed that variation in circulating carotenoid levels at hatch are likely driven by maternal allocation of carotenoids, but that carotenoid physiology shifts during the subsequent few weeks to reflect individual foraging habits. In the lab, adult beak color expression and immune function were more tightly correlated with body condition during growth than body condition during subsequent stages of development or adulthood. Immune challenges during development affected adult immune function and interacted with carotenoid physiology during adulthood, but did not affect adult beak coloration. Dietary access to carotenoids during development, but not adulthood, also affected adult immune function. Taken together, these results highlight the importance of the developmental stage in shaping certain survival-related traits (i.e., immune function), and lead to further questions regarding the development of ornamental traits.

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Created

Date Created
  • 2012

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Chameleon color change communicates conquest and capitulation

Description

Sexual and social signals have long been thought to play an important role in speciation and diversity; hence, investigations of intraspecific communication may lead to important insights regarding key processes

Sexual and social signals have long been thought to play an important role in speciation and diversity; hence, investigations of intraspecific communication may lead to important insights regarding key processes of evolution. Though we have learned much about the control, function, and evolution of animal communication by studying several very common signal types, investigating rare classes of signals may provide new information about how and why animals communicate. My dissertation research focused on rapid physiological color change, a rare signal-type used by relatively few taxa. To answer longstanding questions about this rare class of signals, I employed novel methods to measure rapid color change signals of male veiled chameleons Chamaeleo calyptratus in real-time as seen by the intended conspecific receivers, as well as the associated behaviors of signalers and receivers. In the context of agonistic male-male interactions, I found that the brightness achieved by individual males and the speed of color change were the best predictors of aggression and fighting ability. Conversely, I found that rapid skin darkening serves as a signal of submission for male chameleons, reducing aggression from winners when displayed by losers. Additionally, my research revealed that the timing of maximum skin brightness and speed of brightening were the best predictors of maximum bite force and circulating testosterone levels, respectively. Together, these results indicated that different aspects of color change can communicate information about contest strategy, physiology, and performance ability. Lastly, when I experimentally manipulated the external appearance of chameleons, I found that "dishonestly" signaling individuals (i.e. those whose behavior did not match their manipulated color) received higher aggression from unpainted opponents. The increased aggression received by dishonest signalers suggests that social costs play an important role in maintaining the honesty of rapid color change signals in veiled chameleons. Though the color change abilities of chameleons have interested humans since the time of Aristotle, little was previously known about the signal content of such changes. Documenting the behavioral contexts and information content of these signals has provided an important first step in understanding the current function, underlying control mechanisms, and evolutionary origins of this rare signal type.

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Created

Date Created
  • 2015

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Personality in the City: Relationship Between Animal Behavioral Traits And Urbanization in a Fragile, Human-impacted Desert Ecosystem

Description

Human-inhabited or -disturbed areas pose many unique challenges for wildlife, including increased human exposure, novel challenges, such as finding food or nesting sites in novel structures, anthropogenic noises, and novel

Human-inhabited or -disturbed areas pose many unique challenges for wildlife, including increased human exposure, novel challenges, such as finding food or nesting sites in novel structures, anthropogenic noises, and novel predators. Animals inhabiting these environments must adapt to such changes by learning to exploit new resources and avoid danger. To my knowledge no study has comprehensively assessed behavioral reactions of urban and rural populations to numerous novel environmental stimuli. I tested behavioral responses of urban, suburban, and rural house finches (Haemorhous mexicanus) to novel stimuli (e.g. objects, noises, food), to presentation of a native predator model (Accipiter striatus) and a human, and to two problem-solving challenges (escaping confinement and food-finding). Although I found few population-level differences in behavioral responses to novel objects, environment, and food, I found compelling differences in how finches from different sites responded to novel noise. When played a novel sound (whale call or ship horn), urban and suburban house finches approached their food source more quickly and spent more time on it than rural birds, and urban and suburban birds were more active during the whale-noise presentation. In addition, while there were no differences in response to the native predator, rural birds showed higher levels of stress behaviors when presented with a human. When I replicated this study in juveniles, I found that exposure to humans during development more accurately predicted behavioral differences than capture site. Finally, I found that urban birds were better at solving an escape problem, whereas rural birds were better at solving a food-finding challenge. These results indicate that not all anthropogenic changes affect animal populations equally and that determining the aversive natural-history conditions and challenges of taxa may help urban ecologists better understand the direction and degree to which animals respond to human-induced rapid environmental alterations.

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Date Created
  • 2018

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Plasticity of the red hourglass in female western black widow spiders (Latrodectus hesperus): urban ecological variation, condition-dependence, and adaptive function

Description

Urbanization provides an excellent opportunity to examine the effects of human-induced rapid environmental change (HIREC) on natural ecosystems. Certain species can dominate in urban habitats at the expense of biodiversity.

Urbanization provides an excellent opportunity to examine the effects of human-induced rapid environmental change (HIREC) on natural ecosystems. Certain species can dominate in urban habitats at the expense of biodiversity. Phenotypic plasticity may be the mechanism by which these 'urban exploiters' flourish in urban areas. Color displays and condition-dependent phenotypes are known to be highly plastic. However, conspicuous color displays are perplexing in that they can be costly to produce and may increase detection by enemies. The Western black widow spider () is a superabundant pest species that forms dense aggregations throughout metropolitan Phoenix, Arizona, USA. Adult female display a red hourglass on their abdomen, which is speculated to function as a conspicuous warning signal to enemies. Here, I performed field studies to identify how widow morphology and hourglass color differ between urban and desert subpopulations. I also conducted laboratory experiments to examine the dietary sensitivity of hourglass coloration and to identify its functional role in the contexts of agonism, mating, and predator defense. My field data reveal significant spatial variation across urban and desert subpopulations in ecology and color. Furthermore, hourglass coloration was significantly influenced by environmental factors unique to urban habitats. Desert spiders were found to be smaller and less colorful than urban spiders. Throughout, I observed a positive correlation between body condition and hourglass size. Laboratory diet manipulations empirically confirm the condition-dependence of hourglass size. Additionally, widows with extreme body conditions exhibited condition-dependent coloration. However, hourglass obstruction and enlargement did not produce any effects on the outcome of agonistic encounters, male courtship, or predator deterrence. This work offers important insights into the effects of urbanization on the ecology and coloration of a superabundant pest species. While the function of the hourglass remains undetermined, my findings characterize the black widow's hourglass as extremely plastic. Plastic responses to novel environmental conditions can modify the targets of natural selection and subsequently influence evolutionary outcomes. Therefore, assuming a heritable component to this plasticity, the response of hourglass plasticity to the abrupt environmental changes in urban habitats may result in the rapid evolution of this phenotype.

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Created

Date Created
  • 2014

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Automated animal coloration quantification in digital images using dominant colors and skin classification

Description

The origin and function of color in animals has been a subject of great interest for taxonomists and ecologists in recent years. Coloration in animals is useful for many important

The origin and function of color in animals has been a subject of great interest for taxonomists and ecologists in recent years. Coloration in animals is useful for many important functions like species identification, camouflage and understanding evolutionary relationships. Quantitative measurements of color signal and patch size in mammals, birds and reptiles, to name a few are strong indicators of sexual selection cues and individual health. These measurements provide valuable insights into the impact of environmental conditions on habitat and breeding of mammals, birds and reptiles. Recent advances in the area of digital cameras and sensors have led to a significant increase in the use of digital photography as a means of color quantification in animals. Although a significant amount of research has been conducted on ways to standardize image acquisition conditions and calibrate cameras for use in animal color quantification, almost no work has been done on designing automated methods for animal color quantification. This thesis presents a novel perceptual"–"based framework for the automated extraction and quantification of animal coloration from digital images with slowly varying (almost homogenous) background colors. This implemented framework uses a combination of several techniques including color space quantization using a few dominant colors, foreground"–"background identification, Bayesian classification and mixture Gaussian modelling of conditional densities, edge"–"enhanced model"–"based classification and Saturation"–"Brightness quantization to extract the colored patch. This approach assumes no prior information about the color of either the subject or the background and also the position of the subject in the image. The performance of the proposed method is evaluated for the plumage color of the wild house finches. Segmentation results obtained using the implemented framework are compared with manually scored results to illustrate the performance of this system. The segmentation results show a high correlation with manually scored images. This novel framework also eliminates common problems in manual scoring of digital images such as low repeatability and inter"–"observer error.

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Agent

Created

Date Created
  • 2013

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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.

Contributors

Agent

Created

Date Created
  • 2012

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Heliconius in a new light: the effects of light environments on mimetic coloration, behavior, and visual systems

Description

Although mimetic animal coloration has been studied since Darwin's time, many questions on the efficacy, evolution, and function of mimicry remain unanswered. Müller (1879) hypothesized that unpalatable individuals converge on

Although mimetic animal coloration has been studied since Darwin's time, many questions on the efficacy, evolution, and function of mimicry remain unanswered. Müller (1879) hypothesized that unpalatable individuals converge on the same conspicuous coloration to reduce predation. However, there are many cases where closely related, unpalatable species have diverged from a shared conspicuous pattern. What selection pressures have led to divergence in warning colors? Environmental factors such as ambient light have been hypothesized to affect signal transmission and efficacy in animals. Using two mimetic pairs of Heliconius butterflies, Postman and Blue-white, I tested the hypothesis that animals with divergent mimetic colors segregate by light environment to maximize conspicuousness of the aposematic warning signal under their particular environmental conditions. Each mimetic pair was found in a light environment that differed in brightness and spectral composition, which affected visual conspicuousness differently depending on mimetic color patch. I then used plasticine models in the field to test the hypothesis that mimics had higher survival in the habitat where they occurred. Although predation rates differed between the two habitats, there was no interactive effect of species by habitat type. Through choice experiments, I demonstrated that mimetic individuals preferred to spend time in the light environment where they were most often found and that their absolute visual sensitivity corresponds to the ambient lighting of their respective environment. Eye morphology was then studied to determine if differences in total corneal surface area and/or facet diameters explained the differences in visual sensitivities, but the differences found in Heliconius eye morphology did not match predictions based upon visual sensitivity. To further understand how eye morphology varies with light environments, I studied many tropical butterflies from open and closed habitats to reveal that forest understory butterflies have larger facets compared to butterflies occupying open habitats. Lastly, I tested avian perception of mimicry in a putative Heliconius mimetic assemblage and show that the perceived mimetic resemblance depends upon visual system. This dissertation reveals the importance of light environments on mimicry, coloration, behavior and visual systems of tropical butterflies.

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Created

Date Created
  • 2016

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The Evolution of Hummingbird Coloration and Courtship Displays

Description

Animals have evolved a diversity of signaling traits, and in some species, they co-occur and are used simultaneously to communicate. Although much work has been done to understand why animals

Animals have evolved a diversity of signaling traits, and in some species, they co-occur and are used simultaneously to communicate. Although much work has been done to understand why animals possess multiple signals, studies do not typically address the role of inter-signal interactions, which may vary intra- and inter-specifically and help drive the evolutionary diversity in signals. For my dissertation, I tested how angle-dependent structural coloration, courtship displays, and the display environment interact and co-evolved in hummingbird species from the “bee” tribe (Mellisugini). Most “bee” hummingbird species possess an angle-dependent structurally colored throat patch and stereotyped courtship (shuttle) display. For 6 U.S. “bee” hummingbird species, I filmed male shuttle displays and mapped out the orientation- and-position-specific movements during the displays. With such display paths, I was able to then recreate each shuttle display in the field by moving plucked feathers from each male in space and time, as if they were naturally displaying, in order to measure each male’s color appearance during their display (i.e. the interactions between male hummingbird plumage, shuttle displays, and environment) from full-spectrum photographs. I tested how these interactions varied intra- and inter-specifically, and which of these originating traits might explain that variation. I first found that the solar-positional environment played a significant role in explaining variation in male color appearance within two species (Selasphorus platycercus and Calypte costae), and that different combinations of color-behavior-environment interactions made some males (in both species) appear bright, colorful, and flashy (i.e. their color appearance changes throughout a display), while other males maintained a consistent (non-flashing) color display. Among species, I found that plumage flashiness positively co-varied with male display behaviors, while another measure of male color appearance (average brightness/colorfulness) co-varied with the feather reflectance characteristics themselves. Additionally, species that had more exaggerated plumage features had less exaggerated shuttle displays. Altogether, my dissertation work illustrates the complexity of multiple signal evolution and how color-behavior-environment interactions are vital to understanding the evolution of colorful and behavioral display traits in animals.

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Date Created
  • 2018

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Ambient light environment and the evolution of brightness, chroma, and perceived chromaticity in the warning signals of butterflies

Description

ABSTRACT 1. Aposematic signals advertise prey distastefulness or metabolic unprofitability to potential predators and have evolved independently in many prey groups over the course of evolutionary history as a means

ABSTRACT 1. Aposematic signals advertise prey distastefulness or metabolic unprofitability to potential predators and have evolved independently in many prey groups over the course of evolutionary history as a means of protection from predation. Most aposematic signals investigated to date exhibit highly chromatic patterning; however, relatives in these toxic groups with patterns of very low chroma have been largely overlooked. 2. We propose that bright displays with low chroma arose in toxic prey species because they were more effective at deterring predation than were their chromatic counterparts, especially when viewed in relatively low light environments such as forest understories. 3. We analyzed the reflectance and radiance of color patches on the wings of 90 tropical butterfly species that belong to groups with documented toxicity that vary in their habitat preferences to test this prediction: Warning signal chroma and perceived chromaticity are expected to be higher and brightness lower in species that fly in open environments when compared to those that fly in forested environments. 4. Analyses of the reflectance and radiance of warning color patches and predator visual modeling support this prediction. Moreover, phylogenetic tests, which correct for statistical non-independence due to phylogenetic relatedness of test species, also support the hypothesis of an evolutionary correlation between perceived chromaticity of aposematic signals and the flight habits of the butterflies that exhibit these signals.

Contributors

Agent

Created

Date Created
  • 2013

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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.

Contributors

Agent

Created

Date Created
  • 2012