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Viability and expression of sexual ornaments in the barn swallow Hirundo rustica: a meta‐analysis

Romano, A., Saino, N., Møller, A. P.
Journal of evolutionary biology 2017 v.30 no.10 pp. 1929-1935
Hirundo rustica, females, males, meta-analysis, models, sexual selection, tail, viability
Sexual selection results in the evolution of exaggerated secondary sexual characters that can entail a viability cost. However, in species where sexual ornaments honestly reflect individual quality, the viability cost of secondary sexual characters may be overwhelmed by variation in individual quality, leading to expect that individuals with the largest secondary sexual characters show higher, rather than lower viability. Here, we used meta‐analyses to test whether such expected positive relationship between sexual ornamentation and viability exists in the barn swallow Hirundo rustica, which is one of the most studied model species of sexual selection under field conditions. We found a mean positive effect size of viability in relation to the expression of secondary sexual characters of 0.181 (CI: 0.084–0.278), indicating that in this species the more ornamented individuals are more viable, and therefore of high quality. Analyses of moderator variables showed similar effects in males and females, the H. r. rustica subspecies rather than others and tail length rather than other secondary sexual characters. Future research emphasis on other subspecies than the European one and secondary sexual characters than tail length may help identify the sources of heterogeneity in effect sizes.