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Apparent selective advantage of leucism in a coastal population of Southern caracaras (Falconidae)

AuthorsEdelaar, Pim ; Donázar, José A. ; Soriano, Matías; Santillán, Miguel Angel; Gónzalez-Zevallos, Diego; García Borboroglu, Pablo; Lisnizer, Nora; Gatto, Alejandro Javier; Agüero, María Laura; Passera, Carlos A.
Caracara plancus
Issue DateFeb-2011
PublisherEvolutionary Ecology
CitationEvolutionary Ecology Research, 2011, 13: 187–196
AbstractBackground: Southern caracaras are medium-sized raptors with a large range stretching to the southern tip of South America. An aberrant, leucistic plumage is found commonly along the coast of Chubut Province (Patagonia, Argentina). Leucistic birds do not produce dark melanin in their feathers. However, they are not albinos because their eyes are not red. No genetic studies of caracara plumages are known. Hypothesis: The high frequency of leucistic birds in Chubut Province arises because of natural selection. Methods: Map the distribution of leucistic individuals relative to normal individuals. Combine a variety of anecdotal natural history observations, collected over 20 years, into a logical inference. Observations: Leucistic caracaras were found only along a 250-km stretch of rocky oceanic islands and continental outcrops with large seabird colonies in Chubut Province. In the rest of their range, Southern caracaras have dark plumage. Where they do occur, leucistic birds are frequent and co-occur with dark-plumaged birds. Intermediate individuals, presumably heterozygotes, exist. Leucism is not related to age or sex. Leucistic individuals are restricted to a particular habitat. Gene flow has not homogenized the coastal and inland populations. Results: Leucism is not simply due to inbreeding producing more homozygous individuals. Leucism is not due to genetic drift. Leucism is not an environmental effect on individual physiology or development. Leucism is not a transient (plastic) phenomenon. Where they occur frequently, leucistic Southern caracaras are apparently favoured by natural selection, either directly or by pleiotropy
Publisher version (URL)http://www.evolutionary-ecology.com/issues/v13/n02/hhar2639.pdf
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