Evolutionary Ecology

, Volume 32, Issue 4, pp 379–393 | Cite as

Drivers of wing shape in a widespread Neotropical bird: a dual role of sex-specific and migration-related functions

  • Ivan C. Carvalho Provinciato
  • Márcio S. Araújo
  • Alex E. JahnEmail author
Original Paper


A large body of research has shown how avian morphology is shaped by specific behavioral repertoires and life history traits. Yet, the majority of such research has been conducted on birds breeding at north-temperate latitudes. We tested the hypothesis that functional wing traits of Fork-tailed Flycatchers (Tyrannus savana), which migrate within South America, vary predictably between non-migratory and migratory flycatchers. Additionally, due to sex-specific differences in this species (e.g., males perform courtship displays), we explored sex-related variation in wing shape. We applied classic measures of wing shape (e.g., wing loading, length, aspect ratio, pointedness), as well as landmark-based morphometric analysis to describe the wing morphology of Fork-tailed Flycatchers from breeding populations across South America. We found that migratory flycatchers tend to have more pointed wings than non-migratory flycatchers. Additionally, we found that males have wings that are significantly longer, more pointed, with a higher aspect ratio and that are more swept than those of females, regardless of whether they migrate or not. Overall, our results suggest that wing shape of Fork-tailed Flycatchers is the result of a complex set of tradeoffs shaped by selective pressures exerted on both sexes (i.e., the need to forage on the wing, evade predators and migrate efficiently), as well as sex-specific behaviors (e.g., the need for males to execute acrobatic displays).


Argentina Austral Brazil Flight Landmark-based morphometrics 



We thank three anonymous reviewers and the Associate Editor, who provided many useful comments that greatly improved the manuscript. We are grateful to numerous assistants and collaborators, in particular J. Cereghetti, V.R. Cueto, V. Gómez-Bahamón, M.A. Pizo, M.Â. Marini, J.H. Sarasola and D.T. Tuero, without whom this project would not have been possible. We are grateful to the Fundación Elsa Shaw de Pearson for logistical support. This research was funded by Optics for the Tropics and the Fundação de Amparo á Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo-Brazil (2012/17225-2, 2013/19116-9). Research was conducted in Argentina with approval from Subsecretaria de Ecologia, Gobierno de La Pampa, and Departamento de Flora y Fauna, Ministerio de Asuntos Agrarios, Provincia de Buenos Aires (Disposición 256/11), in Brazil by the Ministério do Meio Ambiente (40221-1) and COTEC-São Paulo (260108–008.399/2013), CEMAVE (3819/1). This study was approved by the Animal Use Ethics Commission at UNESP-Rio Claro under permit 3/2014. The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Instituto de Biociências de Rio ClaroUniversidade Estadual Paulista (UNESP)Rio ClaroBrazil
  2. 2.Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, Migratory Bird CenterWashingtonUSA

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