Assortative mating is a tendency to mate with phenotypically similar individuals as a consequence of either selection acting on mate preferences or individual constraints resulting from temporal and spatial segregation. The aim of this study was to examine the patterns of assortative mating in a plumage-monomorphic bird species, the black-headed gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus. For this purpose, we captured 217 pairs of gulls breeding in two colonies in northern Poland over six years and assessed whether they mated assortatively based on morphology, condition, individual genetic diversity, and expression of ornaments. An analysis of raw data (colonies and years combined) provided support for assortative mating by specific structural characters (head and wing morphology) and condition (size-corrected body mass). However, these relationships lost significance after removing inter-colony and inter-annual variation in the traits, suggesting that they were primarily driven by spatial and temporal segregation of individuals. We also found support for assortative mating by the size, but not coloration, of two melanin-based plumage ornaments (hood and wingtip). These correlations were retained after removing variation between colonies and years, suggesting that they could be due to directional mate preferences. No evidence was found for assortative mating by physiological measures of condition (blood hemoglobin
Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology – Springer Journals
Published: Dec 1, 2017
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