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Evolution of visual signals in the antwrens of the Tribe Formicivorini (Aves, Thamnophilidae)

Grant number: 17/16938-9
Support type:Scholarships abroad - Research Internship - Master's degree
Effective date (Start): December 12, 2017
Effective date (End): March 17, 2018
Field of knowledge:Biological Sciences - Zoology
Principal Investigator:Luís Fábio Silveira
Grantee:Renata Pereira Beco
Supervisor abroad: Scott Vernon Edwards
Home Institution: Museu de Zoologia (MZ). Universidade de São Paulo (USP). São Paulo , SP, Brazil
Local de pesquisa : Harvard University, Cambridge, United States  
Associated to the scholarship:16/08814-5 - Evolution of acoustic and visual signals in the thamnophilids of the tribe Formicivorini (Aves: Passeriformes), BP.MS


Visual signals are used among individuals to transmit information with different purposes such as attracting and courting potential mates, defending territories, maintaining groups together, and minimizing predation. Hence, studying visual signals, such as the ones conveyed by plumage coloration in birds, provides great opportunities to test and predict evolutionary hypothesis because they are susceptible to different selective pressures, such as habitat physical conditions (Sensory Drive Hypothesis - SDH), sexual selection and species recognition. To shed light on the factors influencing the evolution of avian plumage coloration, this project aims at studying visual signals in a diverse clade of Neotropical passerine birds within the family Thamnophilidae. The tribe Formicivorini contains 39 species of small birds that inhabit a wide diversity of habitats and exhibit contrasting patterns of foraging behavior. They are sexually dimorphic in plumage and differences among species are associated to both color and plumage patterns. I propose to integrate a molecular phylogeny with plumage, ecological, and behavioral data to: 1) quantify visual signal diversity, 2) to test the SDH on visual signals, 3) to test the influence of mixed-species flocking behavior on visual signal diversity, and 4) to test potential effects of sexual selection on the structure of visual signals. Plumage data will be obtained from standardized photos of males and females of each species. The calibration and plumage values will be obtained using the ImageJ software. Ecological and behavioral data will be taken from the literature and our previous work. All data will be integrated using Phylogenetic Generalized Least Squares, which will allow testing all proposed hypotheses under different evolutionary models. (AU)