Gray plumage color is more cryptic than brown in snowy landscapes in a resident color polymorphic bird
Koskenpato, K., Lehikoinen, A., Lindstedt, C., & Karell, P. (2020). Gray plumage color is more cryptic than brown in snowy landscapes in a resident color polymorphic bird. Ecology and Evolution, 10(4), 1751-1761. https://doi.org/10.1002/ece3.5914
Published inEcology and Evolution
DisciplineBiologisten vuorovaikutusten huippututkimusyksikköEkologia ja evoluutiobiologiaCentre of Excellence in Biological Interactions ResearchEcology and Evolutionary Biology
© 2019 The Authors
Camouflage may promote fitness of given phenotypes in different environments. The tawny owl (Strix aluco) is a color polymorphic species with a gray and brown morph resident in the Western Palearctic. A strong selection pressure against the brown morph during snowy and cold winters has been documented earlier, but the selection mechanisms remain unresolved. Here, we hypothesize that selection favors the gray morph because it is better camouflaged against predators and mobbers in snowy conditions compared to the brown one. We conducted an online citizen science experiment where volunteers were asked to locate a gray or a brown tawny owl specimen from pictures taken in snowy and snowless landscapes. Our results show that the gray morph in snowy landscapes is the hardest to detect whereas the brown morph in snowy landscapes is the easiest to detect. With an avian vision model, we show that, similar to human perceivers, the brown morph is more conspicuous than the gray against coniferous tree trunks for a mobbing passerine. We suggest that with better camouflage, the gray morph may avoid mobbers and predators more efficiently than the brown morph and thus survive better in snowy environments. As winters are getting milder and shorter in the species range, the selection periods against brown coloration may eventually disappear or shift poleward. ...
PublisherJohn Wiley & Sons
Dataset related to the publicationhttps://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.q573n5tf5
Publication in research information system
MetadataShow full item record
Related funder(s)Academy of Finland
Funding program(s)Centre of Excellence, AoF
Additional information about fundingAL and PK were funded by the Academy of Finland (projects 275606 and 314108, respectively). KK was funded by Jenny and Antti Wihuri Foundation, Oskar Öflunds Foundation, and Societas pro Fauna et Flora Fennica. CLK was funded by the Academy of Finland via the Centre of Excellence in Biological Interactions.
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