A battle of the sexes: Hummingbird competition and evolution

The intersection of evolution and ecology has risen to become a prominent subfield in both disciplines in recent years, with scientists exploring more and more how interactions among organisms can shape evolution at the population and even species level.  In the May issue of the journal Ecology, Ethan Temeles of Amherst College explores a fascinating relationship between the males and females of one species of hummingbird.  The long, curved bills of the females are suited for feeding on  long, curved flowers; the short, straight bills of the males are good for short, straight flowers.

Check out this Field Talk podcast, in which Temeles explains why competition –in short, bullying by the larger males — has led to morphological and functional divergence of the female feeding apparatus.

Temeles, E., Koulouris, C., Sander, S., & Kress, W. (2009). Effect of flower shape and size on foraging performance and trade-offs in a tropical hummingbird Ecology, 90 (5), 1147-1161 DOI: 10.1890/08-0695.1

Author: Christine Buckley

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