I integrate ecology, evolution, genetics, and endocrinology to understand behavior. I am particularly interested in how animals assess their conspecifics, how they use this information to make life history decisions, what consequences these choices have on lifetime reproductive success, and how urbanization affects these processes.
Sexually dimorphic juveniles are unusual because sexual advertisements prior to sexual maturity are likely to be more costly than beneficial, especially if the benefits of sexual dimorphism can be attributed to sexual selection. However, social selection also can drive the evolution of sexual dimorphism. I used behavioral observations and experimental plumage manipulations of wild birds to demonstrate that social selection can be responsible for patterns normally attributed to sexual selection, offering some of the first evidence for the use of blue-UV plumage in status signaling (Tringali & Bowman 2012).
Quantitative Genetics and Pedigrees
Although volumes of literature on bird color exist, information about the heritability of coloration in birds in relatively sparse, and many of these studies fail to consider sex-linked inheritance. With collaborators Arild Husby and Reed Bowman, I constructed a pedigree and used a mixed-effects model to estimate the relative effects of genetics, maternal identity, and territory on Florida scrub-jay plumage color.
Wildlife in urban environments have access to anthropogenic foods, and the availability of these foods may have cascading effects on physiology and behavior. Suburban scrub-jays had plumage that was more UV shifted than their wildland counterparts and were more likely to attain a breeding territory than immigrants from wildlands, indicating suburban birds are perceived as high-quality (Tringali & Bowman 2015). However, immigrants from the suburbs had lower reproductive success relative to effort than immigrants from wildlands. Together, these patterns suggest the plumage of suburban birds is a dishonest signal of quality (Tringali & Bowman 2015).
Maternal effects on plumage color and changes in dominance associated with plumage manipulations may be mediated by endocrine responses. Currently, I am examining the effect of plumage manipulations on circulating levels of testosterone and corticosterone.
A. Tringali & Bowman, R. 2015. Suburban immigrants to wildlands disrupt honest signaling in ultra-violet plumage. Avian Conservation and Ecology 10(1): 9