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The bright incubate at night: Sexual dichromatism and adaptive incubation division in an open-nesting shorebird

  • Author(s): Ekanayake, KB
  • Weston, MA
  • Nimmo, DG
  • Maguire, GS
  • Endler, JA
  • Küpper, C
  • et al.

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© 2015 The Author(s) Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved. Ornamentation of parents poses a high risk for offspring because it reduces cryptic nest defence. Over a century ago, Wallace proposed that sexual dichromatism enhances crypsis of open-nesting females although subsequent studies found that dichromatism per se is not necessarily adaptive. We tested whether reduced female ornamentation in a sexually dichromatic species reduces the risk of clutch depredation and leads to adaptive parental roles in the redcapped plover Charadrius ruficapillus, a species with biparental incubation. Males had significantly brighter and redder head coloration than females. During daytime, when visually foraging predators are active, colour-matched modelmales incurred a higher risk of clutch depredation than females, whereas at night therewas no difference in depredation risk between sexes. In turn, redcapped plovers maintained a strongly diurnal/nocturnal division of parental care during incubation, with males attending the nest largely at night when visual predators were inactive and females incubating during the day. We found support forWallace’s conclusion that reduced female ornamentation provides a selective advantagewhen reproductive success is threatened by visually foraging predators. We conclude that predators may alter their prey’s parental care patterns and therefore may affect parental cooperation during care.

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