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1.  Selection based on the size of the black tie of the great tit may be reversed in urban habitats 
Ecology and Evolution  2014;4(13):2625-2632.
A standard approach to model how selection shapes phenotypic traits is the analysis of capture–recapture data relating trait variation to survival. Divergent selection, however, has never been analyzed by the capture–recapture approach. Most reported examples of differences between urban and nonurban animals reflect behavioral plasticity rather than divergent selection. The aim of this paper was to use a capture–recapture approach to test the hypothesis that divergent selection can also drive local adaptation in urban habitats. We focused on the size of the black breast stripe (i.e., tie width) of the great tit (Parus major), a sexual ornament used in mate choice. Urban great tits display smaller tie sizes than forest birds. Because tie size is mostly genetically determined, it could potentially respond to selection. We analyzed capture/recapture data of male great tits in Barcelona city (N = 171) and in a nearby (7 km) forest (N = 324) from 1992 to 2008 using MARK. When modelling recapture rate, we found it to be strongly influenced by tie width, so that both for urban and forest habitats, birds with smaller ties were more trap-shy and more cautious than their larger tied counterparts. When modelling survival, we found that survival prospects in forest great tits increased the larger their tie width (i.e., directional positive selection), but the reverse was found for urban birds, with individuals displaying smaller ties showing higher survival (i.e., directional negative selection). As melanin-based tie size seems to be related to personality, and both are heritable, results may be explained by cautious personalities being favored in urban environments. More importantly, our results show that divergent selection can be an important mechanism in local adaptation to urban habitats and that capture–recapture is a powerful tool to test it.
PMCID: PMC4113287  PMID: 25077014
Divergent selection; Parus major; plumage coloration; survival; trap response; urban adaptation
2.  Increase in body size is correlated to warmer winters in a passerine bird as inferred from time series data 
Ecology and Evolution  2014;5(1):59-72.
Climate change is expected to affect natural populations in many ways. One way of getting an understanding of the effects of a changing climate is to analyze time series of natural populations. Therefore, we analyzed time series of 25 and 20 years, respectively, in two populations of the citril finch (Carduelis citrinella) to understand the background of a dramatic increase in wing length in this species over this period, ranging between 1.3 and 2.9 phenotypic standard deviations. We found that the increase in wing length is closely correlated to warmer winters and in one case to rain in relation to temperature in the summer. In order to understand the process of change, we implemented seven simulation models, ranging from two nonadaptive models (drift and sampling), and five adaptive models with selection and/or phenotypic plasticity involved and tested these models against the time series of males and females from the two population separately. The nonadaptive models were rejected in each case, but the results were mixed when it comes to the adaptive models. The difference in fit of the models was sometimes not significant indicating that the models were not different enough. In conclusion, the dramatic change in mean wing length can best be explained as an adaptive response to a changing climate.
PMCID: PMC4298434  PMID: 25628864
Citril finch; climate change; phenotypic evolution; plasticity; selection; time series
3.  Repeatability of Feather Mite Prevalence and Intensity in Passerine Birds 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(9):e107341.
Understanding why host species differ so much in symbiont loads and how this depends on ecological host and symbiont traits is a major issue in the ecology of symbiosis. A first step in this inquiry is to know whether observed differences among host species are species-specific traits or more related with host-symbiont environmental conditions. Here we analysed the repeatability (R) of the intensity and the prevalence of feather mites to partition within- and among-host species variance components. We compiled the largest dataset so far available: 119 Paleartic passerine bird species, 75,944 individual birds, ca. 1.8 million mites, seven countries, 23 study years. Several analyses and approaches were made to estimate R and adjusted repeatability (Radj) after controlling for potential confounding factors (breeding period, weather, habitat, spatial autocorrelation and researcher identity). The prevalence of feather mites was moderately repeatable (R = 0.26–0.53; Radj = 0.32–0.57); smaller values were found for intensity (R = 0.19–0.30; Radj = 0.18–0.30). These moderate repeatabilities show that prevalence and intensity of feather mites differ among species, but also that the high variation within species leads to considerable overlap among bird species. Differences in the prevalence and intensity of feather mites within bird species were small among habitats, suggesting that local factors are playing a secondary role. However, effects of local climatic conditions were partially observed for intensity.
PMCID: PMC4162594  PMID: 25216248
4.  Variation in clutch size in relation to nest size in birds 
Møller, Anders P | Adriaensen, Frank | Artemyev, Alexandr | Bańbura, Jerzy | Barba, Emilio | Biard, Clotilde | Blondel, Jacques | Bouslama, Zihad | Bouvier, Jean-Charles | Camprodon, Jordi | Cecere, Francesco | Charmantier, Anne | Charter, Motti | Cichoń, Mariusz | Cusimano, Camillo | Czeszczewik, Dorota | Demeyrier, Virginie | Doligez, Blandine | Doutrelant, Claire | Dubiec, Anna | Eens, Marcel | Eeva, Tapio | Faivre, Bruno | Ferns, Peter N | Forsman, Jukka T | García-Del-Rey, Eduardo | Goldshtein, Aya | Goodenough, Anne E | Gosler, Andrew G | Góźdź, Iga | Grégoire, Arnaud | Gustafsson, Lars | Hartley, Ian R | Heeb, Philipp | Hinsley, Shelley A | Isenmann, Paul | Jacob, Staffan | Järvinen, Antero | Juškaitis, Rimvydas | Korpimäki, Erkki | Krams, Indrikis | Laaksonen, Toni | Leclercq, Bernard | Lehikoinen, Esa | Loukola, Olli | Lundberg, Arne | Mainwaring, Mark C | Mänd, Raivo | Massa, Bruno | Mazgajski, Tomasz D | Merino, Santiago | Mitrus, Cezary | Mönkkönen, Mikko | Morales-Fernaz, Judith | Morin, Xavier | Nager, Ruedi G | Nilsson, Jan-Åke | Nilsson, Sven G | Norte, Ana C | Orell, Markku | Perret, Philippe | Pimentel, Carla S | Pinxten, Rianne | Priedniece, Ilze | Quidoz, Marie-Claude | Remeš, Vladimir | Richner, Heinz | Robles, Hugo | Rytkönen, Seppo | Senar, Juan Carlos | Seppänen, Janne T | da Silva, Luís P | Slagsvold, Tore | Solonen, Tapio | Sorace, Alberto | Stenning, Martyn J | Török, János | Tryjanowski, Piotr | van Noordwijk, Arie J | von Numers, Mikael | Walankiewicz, Wiesław | Lambrechts, Marcel M
Ecology and Evolution  2014;4(18):3583-3595.
Nests are structures built to support and protect eggs and/or offspring from predators, parasites, and adverse weather conditions. Nests are mainly constructed prior to egg laying, meaning that parent birds must make decisions about nest site choice and nest building behavior before the start of egg-laying. Parent birds should be selected to choose nest sites and to build optimally sized nests, yet our current understanding of clutch size-nest size relationships is limited to small-scale studies performed over short time periods. Here, we quantified the relationship between clutch size and nest size, using an exhaustive database of 116 slope estimates based on 17,472 nests of 21 species of hole and non-hole-nesting birds. There was a significant, positive relationship between clutch size and the base area of the nest box or the nest, and this relationship did not differ significantly between open nesting and hole-nesting species. The slope of the relationship showed significant intraspecific and interspecific heterogeneity among four species of secondary hole-nesting species, but also among all 116 slope estimates. The estimated relationship between clutch size and nest box base area in study sites with more than a single size of nest box was not significantly different from the relationship using studies with only a single size of nest box. The slope of the relationship between clutch size and nest base area in different species of birds was significantly negatively related to minimum base area, and less so to maximum base area in a given study. These findings are consistent with the hypothesis that bird species have a general reaction norm reflecting the relationship between nest size and clutch size. Further, they suggest that scientists may influence the clutch size decisions of hole-nesting birds through the provisioning of nest boxes of varying sizes.
PMCID: PMC4224533  PMID: 25478150
Hole nesting; natural holes; nest boxes; reaction norm
5.  Sexy birds are superior at solving a foraging problem 
Biology Letters  2011;7(5):668-669.
Yellow, red or orange carotenoid-based colorations in male birds are often a signal to prospecting females about body condition, health status and ability to find food. However, this general ‘ability to find food’ has never been defined. Here we show that more brightly ornamented individuals may also be more efficient when foraging in novel situations. The results highlight the fact that evolution may have provided females tools to evaluate cognitive abilities of the males.
PMCID: PMC3169050  PMID: 21450725
Carduelis spinus; problem-solving; foraging ability; coloration
6.  Specific Appetite for Carotenoids in a Colorful Bird 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(5):e10716.
Since carotenoids have physiological functions necessary for maintaining health, individuals should be selected to actively seek and develop a specific appetite for these compounds.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Great tits Parus major in a diet choice experiment, both in captivity and the field, preferred carotenoid-enriched diets to control diets. The food items did not differ in any other aspects measured besides carotenoid content.
Specific appetite for carotenoids is here demonstrated for the first time, placing these compounds on a par with essential nutrients as sodium or calcium.
PMCID: PMC2873299  PMID: 20502717
7.  Local differentiation in the presence of gene flow in the citril finch Serinus citrinella 
Biology Letters  2005;2(1):85-87.
It is well known theoretically that gene flow can impede genetic differentiation between populations. In this study, we show that in a highly mobile bird species, where dispersal is well documented, there is a strong genetic and morphological differentiation over a very short geographical scale (less than 5 km). Allocation tests revealed that birds caught in one area were assigned genetically to the same area with a very high probability, in spite of current gene flow. Populations were also morphologically differentiated. The results suggest that the relationship between gene flow and differentiation can be rather complicated and non-intuitive.
PMCID: PMC1617188  PMID: 17148333
gene flow; genetic differentiation; morphological differentiation; dispersal; finches

Results 1-7 (7)