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Editor's Choice: Phylogeny of Emberizoidea and female mate choice in Greater Sage-Grouse

By Mark Hauber, Editor-in-Chief


April 2015 cover of The Auk: Ornithological Advances
Editor-in-Chief Mark Hauber highlights two superb papers coming in the April 2015 issue of The Auk: Ornithological Advances. The first offers insights into New World biogeography based on a new Emberizoidea phylogeny. The second reveals that male sage-grouse are most attractive to females when they increase the intensity of their display as females get closer.
New insights into New World biogeography: An integrated view from the phylogeny of blackbirds, cardinals, sparrows, tanagers, warblers, and allies

(January 7, 2015, The Auk: Ornithological Advances)—With a coverage of nearly 8% of all 10,000 avian species, a new open-access article in The Auk: Ornithological Advances, the top avian biology journal of the last two years, presents the largest, most complete, entirely molecular data-based phylogeny for any group of organisms studied to date. The phylogeny includes 791 of the approximately 832 species in Emberizoidea, a diverse group of New World songbirds including blackbirds, cardinals, sparrows, tanagers, and wood warblers. With the new and improved family tree generated from a team of extraordinary evolutionary biologists, F. Keith Barker of the University of Minnesota and his colleagues were able to derive many new insights about the biogeography of these birds. For example, the ancestors of all of these New World birds likely arrived to North America via an ice-age land bridge from Eurasia, after which they diversified and expanded into South America, the Caribbean, and even back into Eurasia. Other species kept moving back and forth between North and South America, and did so with increasing frequency after the closing of the Isthmus of Panama. Contrary to previous theories, Barker et al. also concluded that the ancestral ranges for modern-day long-distance migrants in this group were probably in North America, meaning that prior to the evolution of the annual migration they resided in regions that now include only their breeding ranges.

F. Keith Barker, Kevin J. Burns, John Klicka, Scott M. Lanyon, and Irby J. Lovette (2015) New insights into New World biogeography: An integrated view from the phylogeny of blackbirds, cardinals, sparrows, tanagers, warblers, and allies. The Auk: April 2015, Vol. 132, No. 2, pp. 333-348.

The article is available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1642/AUK-14-110.1


Male Sage-Grouse Display Most Intensely When Females Get Close

(January 14, 2015, The Auk: Ornithological Advances)— A new open-access study published in The Auk: Ornithological Advances reveals that male sage-grouse are most attractive to females when they increase the intensity of their display as females get closer. Rebecca Koch of Auburn University and Alan Krakauer and Gail Patricelli of the University of California, Davis investigate whether the mechanical "swishes" that are part of the mating display of male Greater Sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) affect their success. For two years, Koch and her colleagues observed and recorded the behavior of male sage-grouse on a breeding ground in Wyoming, using microphones and video cameras to record the sounds they made and keep track of which males got the most mating action, with mixed results. Males definitely varied in the length and frequency range of their swish displays, but these variations did not appear to have any direct effect on their mating success. Instead, the males that did the best were those who were best at adjusting their displays as the social environment of the lek changed, upping the frequency ranges of their swishes when females got closer. The message of this study is that males must rely not only on their inherent qualities but also on an ability to track nearby females.

Rebecca E. Koch, Alan H. Krakauer, and Gail L. Patricelli (2015) Investigating female mate choice for mechanical sounds in the male Greater Sage-Grouse. The Auk: April 2015, Vol. 132, No. 2, pp. 349-358.

The full article is available at http://www.aoucospub...642/AUK-14-63.1


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