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Old males reduce melanin-pigmented traits and increase reproductive outcome under worse environmental conditions in common kestrels

AutorLópez-Idiáquez, David ; Vergara, Pablo ; Fargallo, Juan A. ; Martínez-Padilla, Jesús
Palabras claveAging
Longitudinal approach
Long-term monitoring
Plumage coloration
Sexual selection
Fecha de publicación27-ene-2016
EditorJohn Wiley & Sons
European Society of Evolutionary Biology
CitaciónEcology and Evolution 6(4): 1224-1235 (2016)
ResumenSecondary sexual traits displayed by males and females may have evolved as a signal of individual quality. However, both individual quality and investment on producing or maintaining enhanced sexual traits change as individuals age. At the same time, the costs associated to produce sexual traits might be attenuated or increased if environmental conditions are benign or worse respectively. Accordingly, environmental conditions are expected to shape the association between the expression of sexual traits and their reproductive outcome as individuals age. Nonetheless, little is known about the environmental influence on the co-variation between sexual traits and reproductive outcome throughout the life of individuals. We studied the age-dependency of the number and size of back spots, a melanin-based and sexual trait in adults of common kestrels (Falco tinnunculus). We analysed the age-dependence of reproductive traits and the environmental influence, defined as vole abundance, using a 10-year individual-based dataset. We broke down age-related changes of reproductive traits into within- and between-individual variation to assess their contribution to population-level patterns. Our results showed a within-individual decrease in the number, but not the size, of back spots in males. The size of back spots was positively correlated with food availability in males. Reproductive performance of males increased as they aged, in agreement with the life-history theory but depending of vole abundance. Remarkably, we found that having fewer back spots was positively associated with clutch size only for old individuals under low-food conditions. We suggest that environmental variation may shape the association between the expression of a sexual signal and reproductive outcome. We speculate that the reliability of sexual traits is higher when environmental conditions are poor only for old individuals. Within an evolutionary context, we suggest that the expression of sexual traits might be constrained by environmental conditions at later stages of life.
Versión del editorhttp://dx.doi.org/10.1002/ece3.1910
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