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Morphological evolution and changes in foraging behaviour of island and mainland populations of Blue Tit (Parus caeruleus) — a test of convergence and ecomorphological hypotheses

Research paper by Luis M. Carrascal, Eulalia Moreno, Alfredo Valido

Indexed on: 01 Jan '94Published on: 01 Jan '94Published in: Evolutionary Ecology



Abstract

We study the leg morphology and feeding postures of two subspecies of the Blue Tit (Parus caeruleus; Tenerife island and the Iberian Peninsula) and the Coal Tit (Parus ater; Iberian Peninsula). We search for evidence supporting the hypothesis of convergent evolution in morphological and ecological traits and we discuss the role of ecomorphological hypotheses as predictors of foraging differences at the intraspecific level. To overcome the problems introduced by environmental characteristics not related to locomotion and competition, we make observations under controlled situations to manage food quality and food access. We determine that the island Blue Tit has a longer tarsometatarsus, larger foot span and a more proximal insertion of the tibialis cranialis muscle (flexor of the tarsometatarsus) than the mainland Blue Tit. These morphological differences are consistent with the more frequent use of hanging and clinging ‘head-up’ postures by the Iberian Blue Tit. Several ecomorphological hypotheses obtained at the interspecific level with other taxa, have proved to be of high predictive value for explaining ecological differences considering morphological evolution. The Tenerife Blue Tit and the Iberian Coal Tit clearly show close convergence in both feeding postures and leg structure, although some differences in morphology were found between these two species. Convergence in foraging methods between the island Blue Tit and the mainland Coal Tit can be explained without considering current interspecific competition as a determinant of niche space.