Behavioural, mensural, and ecological correlates of polygyny in the eastern meadowlark (Sturnella magna)
Siderius, Joanne A.
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During 1982 and 1983 I studied male attributes and attributes of the territory of male Eastern Meadowlarks (Sturnella magna) in order to determine whether there was a correlation between any of the attributes investigated and the number of females attracted by a male. Seventeen males, nine of which were polygynous and eight monogamous, were studied in 1982 and sixteen males.of which .. seven were polygynous and nine ~onogamous, were studied in 1983. The study was conducted in Short Hills Park, 10 km southwest of St. Catharines, Ontario and was designed to compare two hypotheses: the "sexy son" hypothesis (Weatherhead and Robertson,1977) and the polygyny threshold model (Verner and Willson,1966, Orians, 1969). Male attributes investigated were male size and song behaviour. Six measures of male size were taken: weight, flattened and natural wing chord length, culmen length, bill depth and length of the tarsometatarsus. In 1983 song repertoire size and song versatility measures were investigated. Attributes of the territory studied were: territory size, density of plant stems, percentage plant cover and measures of vegetation structure. In 1983 Arthropods were collected from each territory and sorted according to taxonomic group and size. During 1983, territory attributes were sampled twice, once early and once later in the nesting season. Analysis of data involved univariate comparisons between monogamous and polygynous males using T-tests and multivariate comparisons were made using discriminant function analysis (DFA) and principle components analysis (PCA).No correlations were found between the number of females attracted with, .ny measure of male size or with me, .sures of song versatili or size of song repertoire. Also no correlation was found between terri size and the number of females nesting on a terri . Some attributes of the male's terri id distinguish between monog,mous and po s males of thistudy. Analysis of Arthropod numbers showed that e~ .eran counts were significantly great~r on polygynous territories, a1 the total numb~rs of Arthropods collected showed no s fico .nt differences between territories of monogamous and po males. DFA chose ear teran and Hymenopteran counts as multivariate discriminators; both variables we' e more vegetation revealed that there were no univariate differences between the two groups of males fOT 1982 stem densities, but ~ spp. and Solidago spp. were chosen DFA as multivariate discriminators. The total number of plant stems and of Vicia spp. stems were s ficantly the early 1983 ing on monogamous territories for however DFA found no multivariate discriminators" Variables concerned with the overall aspects of vegetation structure showed significant differences between territories of monogamous and polygynous males. DFA of the 1982 sampling of vegetation structure showed significantly greater mat depth and vegetation height on polygynous territories, a finding which was not supported, however, by peA. For the early 1983 sampling period, plant height was greater on polygynous territories. Multivariate analysis identified greater green cover on polygynous territories, greater ground cover on monogamous territories, and greater depth of mat material on monogamous territories as discriminators between territories of monogamous and polygynous males. A DFA on the major variables of the study showed no significant difference between the territories of monogamous and polygynous male Meadowlarks. Of the correlations found, some were for non-prey Arthr~ods, for cover plants with very small samples sizes, or for variables which were greater for monogamous males during one sampling period and polygynous males during the next. While multivariate discriminators were found, peA showed no grouping of monogamous or polygynous males according to any of the variables investigated. On the basis of the univariate and multivariate analysis of major variables, I concluded that there were no correlations between the number of females attracted with male attributes and no unambiguous correlation with attributes of the territory. My study does not unequivocally support either the "sexy son" or the polygyny threshold hypothesis.