Experimentally testing mate preference in an avian system with unidirectional bill color introgression

Callum S. McDiarmid*, Fiona Finch, Marianne Peso, Erica van Rooij, Daniel M. Hooper, Melissah Rowe, Simon C. Griffith

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal/periodicalArticleScientificpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
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Mating behavior can play a key role in speciation by inhibiting or facilitating gene flow between closely related taxa. Hybrid zones facilitate a direct examination of mating behavior and the traits involved in establishing species barriers. The long-tailed finch (Poephila acuticauda) has two hybridizing subspecies that differ in bill color (red and yellow), and the yellow bill phenotype appears to have introgressed ~350 km eastward following secondary contact. To examine the role of mate choice on bill color introgression, we performed behavioral assays using natural and manipulated bill colors. We found an assortative female mating preference for males of their own subspecies when bill color was not manipulated. However, we did not find this assortative preference in trials based on artificially manipulated bill color. This could suggest that assortative preference is not fixed entirely on bill color and instead may be based on a different trait (e.g., song) or a combination of traits, or alternatively may be due to lower statistical power alongside the bill manipulations being unconvincing to the female choosers. Intriguingly, we find a bias in the inheritance of bill color in captive bred F1 hybrid females. Previous modeling suggests that assortative mate preference and this kind of partial dominance in the underlying genes may together contribute to introgression, making the genetic architecture of bill color in this system a priority for future research.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere9812
JournalEcology and Evolution
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2023


  • avian
  • bill color
  • hybrid zone
  • introgression
  • mate preference


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