The Evolution of Conspicuous and Distinctive Coloration for Communication in Birds

  • Gregory S. Butcher
  • Sievert Rohwer
Part of the Current Ornithology book series (CUOR, volume 6)


Our goal is to elucidate the selective pressures that account for the origin and maintenance of conspicuous and distinctive coloration (hereafter referred to collectively as colorfulness) in birds. Our ideas are relevant to the study of other animals as well. We propose an “adaptationist program” (Gould and Lewontin, 1979) that features the use of the comparative method (Hailman, 1976; Ridley, 1983; Clutton-Brock and Harvey, 1984), color manipulations, and tests of a priori predictions. Our major effort is to compare and contrast the major hypotheses that have been proposed to account for colorfulness in birds. Progress in understanding bird coloration will come more quickly when researchers evaluate more than one hypothesis at a time. The availability of multiple hypotheses serves two major purposes. First, it frees the researcher from psychological dependence on the hypotheses being tested (Loehle, 1987). Second, with careful planning, it permits strong inference testing (Platt, 1964) among the most relevant hypotheses.


Sexual Selection Mate Choice Mate Attraction Fighting Ability Nonbreeding Season 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gregory S. Butcher
    • 1
  • Sievert Rohwer
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Zoology and Burke MuseumUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA

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