Ecological and evolutionary significance of molt in lowland Neotropical landbirds

Document Type


Publication Date



College of Forest Resources and Environmental Science


The slow-paced life history of many Neotropical birds (e.g., high survival and low fecundity) is hypothesized to increase lifetime fitness through investments in self-maintenance over reproduction relative to their temperate counterparts. Molt is a key investment in self-maintenance and is readily shaped by environmental conditions. As such, variation in molt strategies may be a key mechanism underlying life-history trade-offs and adaptation to new environments. Here, we review molt strategies from a diversity of lowland Neotropical landbirds and examine how variation in molt strategies, characterized by differences in molt insertions, timing, extent, and duration contribute to life-history variation and adaptation to diverse ecological conditions. In addition to our synthesis, we present a case study to examine the relationship between home range size and duration of the definitive prebasic molt of a well-studied subset of Amazonian landbirds. Our results suggest a connection between prolonged molt duration and larger home range size of small-to-medium-sized Amazonian landbirds. Our aims were to identify key gaps in our knowledge of Neotropical bird molt, to stimulate further comparative studies into the evolution of molt strategies, and to highlight how variation in molt strategies may be a key mechanism underlying life-history variation across latitudes.

Publication Title