Date: April 2, 2019
Source: University of Chicago Press Journals
In "Conspicuous Plumage Does Not Increase Predation Risk: A Continent-Wide Test Using Model Songbirds," published in the American Naturalist, Kristal E. Cain examines the factors that drive the predation levels of Australia's fairy wrens. After measuring attack rates on both conspicuously and dull colored 3D fairy wren models in various habitats, Cain found that bright or "conspicuous" plumage is not associated with an increase in predation.
"These findings do not support the long-standing hypothesis that conspicuous plumage, in isolation, is costly due to increased attraction from predators," Cain writes. "Our results indicate that conspicuousness interacts with other factors in driving the evolution of plumage coloration."
The forces shaping plumage color of female birds -- who are sometimes brightly colored like their male counterparts and other times much more dull -- is a long-debated topic of evolutionary biology that remains unresolved. Fairy wrens, who vary greatly in both female coloration and the habitats in which they live, are an excellent group for investigating the evolutionary forces shaping female plumage, Cain writes.