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Ecomorphology of the wheatears (genus Oenanthe)

Authors

  • MOHAMMAD KABOLI,

    1. Laboratoire Ecologie et Biogéographie des Vertébrés (EPHE), Centre d’Ecologie Fonctionnelle et Evolutive, UMR 5175, 1919 route de Mende, 34293 Montpellier cedex 5, France
    2. Department of Fishery and Environment, Faculty of Natural Resources, Tehran University, Tehran, Iran
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  • MANSOUR ALIABADIAN,

    1. Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics and Zoological Museum, University of Amsterdam, Mauritskade 61, 1092 AD Amsterdam, the Netherlands
    2. Department of Biology, Faculty of Science, Ferdowsi University of Mashhad, Mashhad, Iran
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  • ALBAN GUILLAUMET,

    1. Laboratoire Génome Population Interactions Adaptation (UMR 5171), Université Montpellier-2, case 63, 34095 Montpellier cedex 5, France
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  • CEES S. ROSELAAR,

    1. Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics and Zoological Museum, University of Amsterdam, Mauritskade 61, 1092 AD Amsterdam, the Netherlands
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  • ROGER PRODON

    Corresponding author
    1. Laboratoire Ecologie et Biogéographie des Vertébrés (EPHE), Centre d’Ecologie Fonctionnelle et Evolutive, UMR 5175, 1919 route de Mende, 34293 Montpellier cedex 5, France
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*Corresponding author. Email: roger.prodon@cefe.cnrs.fr

Abstract

We used measurements of museum skins to assess morphological differences between the 22 currently recognized species of wheatear and to identify correlations between morphological features, behavioural traits and degrees of sympatry between species. Ground-dwelling species of steppe-like habitats have long tarsi, long claws and short tails; some are migratory and have long pointed wings and non-emarginated primaries (O. isabellina and O. oenanthe), while others are sedentary and have more rounded and slotted wings (O. bottae, O. heuglini and O. pileata). Vegetation-tolerant species (O. pleschanka, O. hispanica, O. cypriaca and O. deserti) have relatively long tails, short tarsi, long middle toes and long claws. The rock-dwelling species have short tarsi, long toes and short claws; they can be either relatively heavy (O. leucura and O. monticola) or light, like the wheatears inhabiting the most arid areas (O. monacha, O. leucopyga and O. alboniger). Although sedentary, the latter show intermediate characteristics between sedentary and migratory species, having relatively pointed wings with non-emarginated primaries. Together with their low wing-loadings, these traits may be related to the scarcity of resources in their habitats, which obliges them to make frequent and long flights. The clear morphological differentiation between wheatear species appears to be mainly related to their migratory and foraging habits, but seems to bear no relation to their degree of sympatry.

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