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Blue Tits are Ultraviolet Tits

Sarah Hunt, Andrew T. D. Bennett, Innes C. Cuthill and Richard Griffiths
Proceedings: Biological Sciences
Vol. 265, No. 1395 (Mar. 22, 1998), pp. 451-455
Published by: Royal Society
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/50814
Page Count: 5
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Blue Tits are Ultraviolet Tits
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Abstract

The blue tit (Parus caeruleus) has been classified as sexually monochromatic. This classification is based on human colour preception yet, unlike humans, most birds have four spectrally distinct classes of cone and are visually sensitive to wavelengths in the near-ultraviolet (300-400 nm). Reflectance spectrophotometry reveals that blue tit plumage shows considerable reflection of UV light. For example, the blue crest shows peak reflectance at wavelengths around 352 nm. Furthermore, the blue tit is sexually dichromatic for multiple regions of plumage, including the crest. Choice trials performed in the laboratory indicate that females prefer males with the brightest crests. This study has implications for both intra- and interspecific studies of sexual selection, as well as future classification of dichromatism, which should not ignore the possibility of variation in reflectance in the UV.

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