Multimodal signalling in the North American barn swallow: a phenotype network approach


Complex signals, involving multiple components within and across modalities, are common in animal communication. However, decomposing complex signals into traits and their interactions remains a fundamental challenge for studies of phenotype evolution. We apply a novel phenotype network approach for studying complex signal evolution in the North American barn swallow ( Hirundo rustica erythrogaster ). We integrate model testing with correlation-based phenotype networks to infer the contributions of female mate choice and male–male competition to the evolution of barn swallow communication. Overall, the best predictors of mate choice were distinct from those for competition, while moderate functional overlap suggests males and females use some of the same traits to assess potential mates and rivals. We interpret model results in the context of a network of traits, and suggest this approach allows researchers a more nuanced view of trait clustering patterns that informs new hypotheses about the evolution of communication systems.

Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences