Title

Divergence in mating signals correlates with genetic distance and behavioural responses to playback

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

2016

Publication Title

Journal of Evolutionary Biology

Volume

29

Issue

2

First Page

306

Last Page

318

DOI

10.1111/jeb.12782

Abstract

Animals use acoustic signals to defend resources against rivals and attract breeding partners. As with many biological traits, acoustic signals may reflect ancestry; closely related species often produce more similar signals than do distantly related species. Whether this similarity in acoustic signals is biologically relevant to animals is poorly understood. We conducted a playback experiment to measure the physical and vocal responses of male songbirds to the songs of both conspecific and allopatric-congeneric animals that varied in their acoustic and genetic similarity. Our subjects were territorial males of four species of neotropical Troglodytes wrens: Brown-throated Wrens (Troglodytes brunneicollis), Cozumel Wrens (T. beani), Clarion Wrens (T. tanneri) and Socorro Wrens (T. sissonii). Our results indicate that birds respond to playback of both conspecific and allopatric-congeneric animals; that acoustic differences increase with genetic distance; and that genetic divergence predicts the strength of behavioural responses to playback, after removing the effects of acoustic similarity between subjects' songs and playback stimuli. Collectively, these results demonstrate that the most distantly related species have the most divergent songs; that male wrens perceive divergence in fine structural characteristics of songs; and that perceptual differences between species reflect evolutionary history. This study offers novel insight into the importance of acoustic divergence of learned signals and receiver responses in species recognition. © 2016 European Society for Evolutionary Biology.

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