Evol Ecol Res 6: 1253-1260 (2004) Full PDF if your library subscribes.
Genetic and environmental effects on the covariation between colour polymorphism and a life-history trait
Alexandre Roulin,1* Pierre Bize,2 Pierre-Alain Ravussin3 and Laurent Broch4
1Laboratoire Génétique de l’Environnement, Institut des Sciences de l’Evolution (UMR5554), Bâtiment 22, 1er étage, Place Eugène Bataillon, Université Montpellier II, 34095 Montpellier Cedex 5, France, 2Institute of Zoology, Division of Evolutionary Ecology, University of Bern, Baltzerstrasse 6, 3012 Bern, Switzerland, 3Rue de Theu, 1446 Baulmes, Switzerland and 4Rue des Pervenches, 1700 Fribourg, Switzerland
Address all correspondence to Alexandre Roulin, Department of Ecology and Evolution, Biology Building, CH-1015 Lausanne, Switzerland.
Variation in coloration with a strong underlying genetic basis is frequently found within animal populations but little is known about its function. Covariation between colour polymorphism and life-history traits can arise because morphs perform differently among environments or because they possess alternative alleles coding for key life-history traits. To test these two hypotheses, we studied a population of tawny owls Strix aluco, a bird displaying red, brown and grey morphs. We assessed the colour morph of breeding females, swapped eggs or hatchlings between pairs of nests, and examined how body condition in 3-week-old nestlings covaries with coloration of foster and genetic mothers. Redder foster and genetic mothers produced young in better condition. Because in two other years we observed that greyish females produced offspring in better condition than those of red females, the present study suggests that colour polymorphism signals genetic and phenotypic adaptations to cope with a fluctuating environment.
Keywords: colour polymorphism, disruptive selection, ecological niche, frequency-dependent selection, genetic–environment interaction, Strix aluco.
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