Viability selection on prey morphology by a generalist predator

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Abstract

Prey use their locomotory capacity to escape predators, and there should thus be strong viability selection on locomotory morphology of prey. We compared feather morphology of wood pigeons Columba palumbus killed by goshawks Accipiter gentilis with that of survivors to quantify directional and quadratic selection on primary and rectrix feathers. The goshawk is mainly a predator attacking by surprise, leaving wood pigeons with an ability to accelerate fast at a selective advantage. There was directional selection for light primary feathers with a narrow calamus. In addition, there was directional selection for increased area of rectrices. These patterns of natural selection were confirmed in multivariate analyses of selection that showed selection for light primary feathers with a large area and narrow calamus and for a large area of rectrix feathers. These results provide evidence of selection on different aspects of feather morphology directly related to flight performance and thus escape ability from predators.

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