Evolutionary Ecology

, Volume 32, Issue 2–3, pp 191–214 | Cite as

Spatial and environmental correlates of intraspecific morphological variation in three species of passerine birds from the Purus–Madeira interfluvium, Central Amazonia

  • Fernando Henrique Teófilo de Abreu
  • Juliana Schietti
  • Marina Anciães
Original Paper


Biogeographic studies in Amazonia typically describe biodiversity across interfluvia, rarely within them, where geographic variability in morphological traits might be observed. We tested for intraspecific phenotypic variation in three bird species within the Purus–Madeira interfluvium (Central Amazon) and whether phenotypes were correlated with environmental heterogeneity or geographic distance among sites. We compared coloration indexes derived from reflectance spectra and morphometrics of up to five adult individuals of each sex among 11 sites within the interfluvium and contrasted them with proxies for geographic distance and environmental variation (tree basal area and bird community). Environmental heterogeneity was minimally spatially autocorrelated, and there were no obvious geographical barriers to dispersal in the study region. The null hypothesis was that we would see either no phenotypic variation or random variation that was not explained by the tested variables. Half of the cases analyzed showed intraspecific morphological variation. Coloration varied more frequently than morphometrics, and color was better explained by environmental heterogeneity, particularly in males, whereas brightness also varied with geographic distance. Geographic distance explained the only case of variation in morphometrics. Our results indicate that coloration, particularly plumage brightness, is more labile than morphometric traits and that plumage color might be under stronger effects of local adaptation than brightness, which also seems to be under effects of neutral drift and gene flow among populations. Higher frequencies of association between male coloration and the environment suggest a role of non-arbitrary mechanisms of sexual selection on the expression of male phenotypes, whereas arbitrary intersexual selection might explain the randomly distributed variation that is not explained by environmental heterogeneity or geographic distance. We revealed intraspecific phenotypic variation in a spatial extent usually not considered in biogeographic studies in the Amazon and demonstrate that both local adaptation and neutral drift are important to explain intraspecific trait diversification at this geographical scale.


Arbitrary preferences Coloration Neotropics Phenotypic variation Suboscines Sensory drive 



We are grateful to I. Kaefer, P. Simões, S. Borges, R. Cintra, F. Werneck and two anonymous referees for helpful comments on the manuscript and to A. Lima, W. Magnuson, M. J. Fortin and A. Stow for helpful sampling design suggestions. Centro Nacional de Pesquisa para Conservação das Aves Silvestres—CEMAVE (Number: 3245/3) and Instituto Chico Mendes de Conservação da Biodiversidade—ICMBio (Number: 5873-1) granted permits, and Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado do Amazonas (PRONEX/FAPEAM/CNPQ 003/2009 to MA); Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico (UNIVERSAL—MCTI/CNPq 471092/2012-6 to MA); PRONEX/FAPEAM (1600/2006 to W. Magnusson), Hidroveg Universal CNPq (473308/2009-6), Centre for Amazonian Biodiversity Studies (INCT CENBAM), The Large Scale Biosphere–Atmosphere Experiment (LBA) and CAPES (fellowship to FHTA) funded the research. We thank the curators and collection managers at Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas da Amazônia (INPA) and the Museu Paraense Emilio Goeldi (MPEG) for access to specimens. The Brazilian Biodiversity Research Programme (PPBio) offered logistical support, and T. Emilio shared data on palm plant species and soil. We thank F. Assunção, A. Sousa, M. Bosholn, N. Soto, H. Santana, E. Dantas, S. Pereira, R. Dário, J. Capurucho and G. Leite for field assistance.

Supplementary material

10682_2018_9929_MOESM1_ESM.docx (909 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 908 kb)


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Authors and Affiliations

  • Fernando Henrique Teófilo de Abreu
    • 1
    • 3
  • Juliana Schietti
    • 1
    • 2
  • Marina Anciães
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.Programa de Pós-Graduação em EcologiaInstituto Nacional de Pesquisas da Amazônia (INPA)ManausBrazil
  2. 2.Coordenação de Biodiversidade (COBIO)Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas da Amazônia (INPA)ManausBrazil
  3. 3.Laboratório de Evolução e Comportamento Animal (LABECA)Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas da Amazônia (INPA)ManausBrazil

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