Multiple sexual signals and behavioral reproductive isolation in a diverging population

Yoni Vortman*, Arnon Lotem, Roi Dor, Irby Lovette, Rebecca J. Safran

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


Sexual trait divergence has been shown to play a role in the evolution of reproductive isolation. While variation in multiple sexual signals is common among closely related species, little is known about the role of these different axes of phenotype variation with respect to the evolution of behavioral reproductive isolation. Here we study a unique population of barn swallows (Hirundo rustica transitiva) that can be distinguished phenotypically from its neighboring populations only on the basis of two features of male plumage: exaggerated expression of both long tail streamers and dark ventral coloration. Using phenotype manipulation experiments, we conducted a paternity study to examine whether both traits are sexually selected. Our results show that an exaggerated form of the local male phenotype (with both tail elongation and color darkening) is favored by local females, whereas males whose phenotypes were manipulated to look like males of neighboring subspecies suffered paternity losses from their social mates. These results confirm the multiple signaling role of the unique tail and color combination in our diverging population and suggest a novel possibility according to which multiple sexual signals may also be used to discriminate among males from nearby populations when prezygotic reproductive isolation is adaptive.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)514-523
Number of pages10
JournalAmerican Naturalist
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2013


  • Barn swallow
  • Multiple sexual signals
  • Prezygotic isolation
  • Speciation


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