Male bowerbirds collect and decorate their bowers with coloured objects that influence female choice. A recent version of the sensory drive hypothesis claims that female food colour preferences have driven the evolution of female preferences for the colour of male display traits. This hypothesis predicts a positive correlation between male display and food colour preferences. A positive correlation between food and decoration preferences could also arise because of sensory biases built into bowerbirds or the environment. Here we test hypotheses that (1) male and female satin bowerbirds show well-defined food colour preferences, (2) these preferences correlate with independently assessed preferences for bower decorations, and, in a cross-species comparison, (3) food items were used as the first bower decorations. We found that male and female satin bowerbirds, Ptilonorhynchus violaceus, preferentially use long wavelength and were colours as food items. Male decoration preferences were biased towards colours of short wavelength and were negatively correlated with food colour preferences. Our reconstruction of ancestral character states is most consistent with the hypothesis that the original bower decorations were inedible objects and were thus unlikely to have been dual-use traits that also functioned as food items. Our results do not support the hypothesis that food colour preferences have driven the evolution of bower decoration colour preferences nor that sensory drive has caused similar food and decoration preferences, but instead suggest that different factors have shaped female preferences for male display and food colour preferences in bowerbirds.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Animal Science and Zoology