Behaviour 2019
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The Function and Mechanisms of Female Ornamentation in a Lekking Bird
Alexis D. Earl1, Abby A. Kimmitt2, Richard K. Simpson3, Jessica L. Yorzinski1. 1Texas A&M University, College Station, TX, United States; 2Indiana University, Bloomington, IN, United States; 3University of Windsor, Windsor, Ontario, Canada

The study of male ornamentation has been fundamental to advancing our understanding of sexual selection, yet we are only now beginning to examine the elaborate ornamentation of females. Although female ornamentation was once thought to be non-adaptive, recent studies have provided evidence demonstrating that female ornamentation functions in intrasexual competition and male mate choice but few studies have examined lekking species. We investigated the function and mechanisms of female ornamentation in a lekking species. Peafowl (Pavo cristatus) are a lekking species in which females exhibit an elaborate ornament (iridescent neck plumage). We quantified the luminance, hue, and saturation of ornaments from 25 captive peahens. We tested whether female ornamentation signals dominance order within the female social hierarchy. We also tested whether female dominance impacts courtship behavior. Our results suggest that more dominant females have brighter ornaments. In addition, dominant females prevent subordinate females from interacting with displaying males. This study provides insight into the evolution and significance of conspicuous female traits.