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Gender and viability selection on morphology in fledgling pied flycatchers


Dr Jaime Potti. Fax: 34 91 8 85 50 80; E-mail:


Until recently, analyses of gender-dependent differences in viability selection and the ontogeny of sexual size dimorphism have been plagued by difficulties in determining the sex of nestling birds on the basis of morphology. Recently, this problem was overcome using molecular sex identification to report for the first time body-size-mediated antagonistic selection on the viability of male and female collared flycatchers. We used molecular sex identification to analyse natural selection on fledgling viability, sexual size dimorphism and effects of parasites in relation to gender in a Mediterranean population of the related pied flycatcher Ficedula hypoleuca. There was directional positive selection on fledgling weight but no selection on tarsus length. Fledgling weight was the most important determinant of fledgling survival, with heavier fledglings having increased viability. Although selective trends were of the same sign for both sexes, only among female fledglings were selection differentials and gradients statistically significant. Therefore, similar trends in selection were revealed in analyses of a data set where sex was ignored and in separate analyses using same-sex sibship trait means. Mite nest ectoparasites negatively affected fledgling weight, and the effects were stronger in female than male fledglings. There was no effect of parasitism on the tarsus length in males, as previously reported in retrospective analyses performed without knowledge of sex until recruitment. Overall, selection on fledgling viability on the basis of morphological traits and hatching date was not confounded by an individual's gender.

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