2018 Volume 17 Issue 2 Pages 125-134
The Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica is a model species for studying sexual selection. After its long tail was shown to be the target of female mate choice, its plumage characteristics, including the red throat patch and the size of white tail spots in addition to tail length, have attracted the attention of many researchers. Although there have been several reviews of sexual selection in this species, these reviews have focused mostly on general patterns of sexual selection within and among subspecies, rather than on the functional differences between plumage characteristics in sexual selection. Here, I review mechanisms of sexual selection for male plumage ornaments in Japanese Barn Swallows H. r. gutturalis. In the last decade, studies of sexual selection in Japanese Barn Swallows have focussed on tail length, the size of the white tail spots, and the size and coloration of red throat patches. Each ornamental trait appears to be involved in different sexual selection mechanisms: the size of the white tail spots is important for several mechanisms of intersexual selection, including the Darwin-Fisher mechanism and differential allocation, whereas throat coloration may be intra-sexually selected, at least in part. The size of the throat patch, in contrast, is the target of an intersexual selection mechanism, differential access, indicating a partially independent evolution of the two components of the red throat patch. Multiple mechanisms of sexual selection would explain the multiple ornaments and their geographical variation, and even the probability of speciation and extinction.
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