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Evolution of colour communication

Coordinator: Staffan Andersson
Participants: Maria Prager

We are interested in how and why animals communicate by colour, in particular the astounding diversity of ornamental colour signals in the visually advanced birds. Proximate mechanisms and adaptive significance of plumage colour signals and colour vision (over the full 320-700 nm avian spectral range) are explored by a combination of lab and field studies.

Current research projects

Evolution of colour communication in birds: Carotenoid metabolism and adaptive radiation.
In this longterm project we study the behavioural ecology, physiological mechanisms and evolutionary diversification of carotenoid pigmentation in African widowbirds and bishops (Euplectes spp.) and other weaverbirds (Ploceinae). To allow phylogenetic comparative studies of social and ecological selection pressures and constraints on colour evolution, a molecular phylogeny of the studied taxa is estimated from mitochondrial and nuclear genes.

Air pollution and colour signals: Carotenoids and reflectance as biomarkers of oxidative stress in birds.
In urban and rural populations of great tits (Parus major), we investigate how carotenoid nutrition and pigmentation may serve as general indicators of health and environmental stress.

In both projects, coloration and colour signals are quantified using reflectance spectroradiometry in the field, followed by objective colorimetric measurements or visual modelling. Carotenoid pigments in plumage, blood, egg yolk, and other tissues are identified and quantified by high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC). 

Page Manager: Sven Toresson|Last update: 2/23/2018

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