CIE Spotlight: Natural selection for earlier male arrival to breeding grounds through direct and indirect effects in a migratory songbird

Marcel K.
Marcel K.

TitleNatural selection for earlier male arrival to breeding grounds through direct and indirect effects in a migratory songbird

Authors: William Velmala, Samuli Helle, Markus P. Ahola, Marcel Klaassen, Esa Lehikoinen, Kalle Rainio, Päivi M. Sirkiä andToni Laaksonen

Source: Ecology and Evolution (Article first published online, 22 FEB 2015)

Brief summary of the paper: For migratory birds, the earlier arrival of males to breeding grounds is often expected to have fitness benefits.

However, the selection differential on male arrival time has rarely been decomposed into the direct effect of male arrival and potential indirect effects through female traits.

We measured the directional selection differential on male arrival time in the pied flycatcher (Ficedula hypoleuca) using data from 6 years and annual number of fledglings as the fitness proxy.

Using structural equation modeling, we were able to take into account the temporal structure of the breeding cycle and the hierarchy between the examined traits. We found directional selection differentials for earlier male arrival date and earlier female laying date, as well as strong selection differential for larger clutch size.

These selection differentials were due to direct selection only as indirect selection for these traits was nonsignificant. When decomposing the direct selection for earlier male arrival into direct and indirect effects, we discovered that it was almost exclusively due to the direct effect of male arrival date on fitness and not due to its indirect effects via female traits.

In other words, we showed for the first time that there is a direct effect of male arrival date on fitness while accounting for those effects that are mediated by effects of the social partner. Our study thus indicates that natural selection directly favored earlier male arrival in this flycatcher population.