Brownish, small and lousy barn swallows have greater natal dispersal propensity

Publication Type:Journal Article
Year of Publication:2014
Authors:N. Saino, Romano, M., Scandolara, C., Rubolini, D., Ambrosini, R., Caprioli, M., Costanzo, A., Romano, A.
Journal:Animal Behaviour
Pagination:137 - 146
Date Published:01-2014
Keywords:barn swallow, body size, coevolution, colour, melanin, natal dispersal, parasitism, philopatry, sexual selection

Natal dispersal contributes to population dynamics and genetic structure. Individuals differ in whether or not they disperse and in the distance they travel from their natal site before settling to breed. Differences in natal dispersal are often associated with variation in other traits. These associations may arise because suites of morphological and behavioural traits are ultimately controlled by the same set of genes. The genes that control melanogenesis in vertebrates pleiotropically influence physiology and behaviour, including boldness and exploration. Because these personality traits predict dispersal, we tested the hypothesis that in the barn swallow, Hirundo rustica, melanic coloration predicts natal dispersal, using a solid matched caseecontrol sampling design and a large sample. We found that males but not females with colour traits that reflect relatively more pheomelanic feather pigmentation were more likely to disperse, consistently with observations on the only other species for which dispersal in relation to plumage melanic coloration has so far been studied. To control for any confounding effects, we also analysed the association of dispersal with morphological traits and parasite infestation. Philopatric individuals were larger than dispersers, whereas dispersal strategy did not differ according to tail length, which is a sexually selected trait. Finally, philopatric females had a smaller infestation of a haematophagous louse fly. The present findings corroborate previous evidence that melanic coloration covaries with a suite of traits. In particular, they show that melanin-based plumage coloration predicts natal dispersal, independently of other factors also influencing dispersal. In addition, our results show that philopatric individuals were larger than dispersers possibly because individuals return to a benign natal place or because large body size confers an advantage in competitive interactions. Finally, they are
compatible with the idea of host adaptation to local strains of a parasite with presumably small population size and low dispersing capacity.

Short Title:Animal Behaviour
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