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Cluttered habitats reduce wing asymmetry and increase flight performance in European starlings

Authors
  • Swaddle, John P.1
  • Witter, Mark S.1
  • 1 Center for Behavioural Biology, School of Biological Sciences, University of Bristol, Woodland Road, Bristol BS8 1UG, UK, GB
Type
Published Article
Journal
Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology
Publisher
Springer-Verlag
Publication Date
Apr 01, 1998
Volume
42
Issue
4
Pages
281–287
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1007/s002650050440
Source
Springer Nature
Keywords
License
Yellow

Abstract

Fluctuating asymmetry is a measure of developmental instability and results from both genomic and environmental influences. Levels of asymmetry are (in part) influenced by mechanical constraints, as asymmetry is believed to reduce efficiency. Here we have investigated the influence of habitat structure (“open” and “cluttered” environments) on primary flight feather asymmetry and flight performance in European starlings. Our findings indicate that the increased flight demands of cluttered habitats act to reduce primary asymmetry and increase flight performance. These data are discussed in terms of the influence of asymmetry on flight performance and the mechanisms that give rise to asymmetry. This study also presents a novel method, i.e., examining within-individual changes in asymmetry, by which the detrimental and positive influence of the environment could be studied in subsequent field and laboratory studies without confounding environmental effects with genomic influences.

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