Phenotypic selection on an ornamental trait is not modulated by breeding density in a pied flycatcherpopulation
Most studies of phenotypic selection in the wild have focussed on morphological and life-history traits and looked at abiotic (climatic) variation as the main driver of selection. Consequently, our knowledge of the effects of biotic environmental variation on phenotypic selection on sexual traits is scarce. Population density can be considered a proxy for the intensity of intrasexual and intersexual competition and could therefore be a key factor influencing the covariation between individual fitness and the expression of sexual traits. Here, we used an individual-based data set from a population of pied flycatchers (Ficedula hypoleuca) monitored over 24 years to analyze the effect of breeding density on phenotypic selection on dorsal plumage colouration, a heritable and sexually selected ornament in males of this species. Using the number of recruits as a fitness proxy, our results showed overall stabilizing selection on male dorsal colouration, with intermediate phenotypes being favoured over extremely dark and dull individuals. However, our results did not support the hypothesis that breeding density mediates phenotypic selection on this sexual trait. We discuss the possible role of other biotic factors influencing selection on ornamental plumage.