Rethinking Gloger'S Rule: Climate, Light Environments, And Color In A Large Family Of Tropical Birds (Furnariidae)

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Ecogeographic rules provide a framework within which to test evolutionary hypotheses of adaptation. Gloger's rule predicts that endothermic animals should have darker colors in warm/rainy climates. This rule also predicts that animals should be more rufous in warm/dry climates, the so-called complex Gloger's rule. Empirical studies frequently demonstrate that animals are darker in cool/wet climates rather than in warm/wet climates. Furthermore, sensory ecology predicts that, to enhance crypsis, animals should be darker in darker light environments. We aimed to disentangle the effects of climate and light environments on plumage color in the large Neotropical passerine family Furnariidae. We found that birds in cooler and rainier climates had darker plumage even after controlling for habitat type. Birds in darker habitats had darker plumage even after controlling for climate. The effects of temperature and precipitation interact so that the negative effect of precipitation on brightness is strongest in cool temperatures. Finally, birds tended to be more rufous in warm/dry habitats but also, surprisingly, in cool/wet locales. We suggest that Gloger's rule results from complementary selective pressures arising from myriad ecological factors, including crypsis, thermoregulation, parasite deterrence, and resistance to feather abrasion.

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American Naturalist

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