Geographic variation and the evolution of song in Mesoamerican rufous-naped wrens Campylorhynchus rufinucha

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Journal of Avian Biology





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Speciation may be influenced by geographic variation in animal signals, particularly when those signals are important in reproductive decisions. Here, we describe patterns of geographic variation in the song of rufous-naped wrens Campylorhynchus rufinucha. This species complex is a morphologically variable taxon confined to tropical dry forest areas from Mexico to northwestern Costa Rica. Morphological and genetic analyses suggest that there are at least three partially isolated groups within the complex, including a secondary-contact zone in coastal western Chiapas between the subspecies C. r. humilus and C. r. nigricaudatus. Based on recordings throughout their geographic range, we investigate the effects of historical isolation on song structure and analyze whether genetic differences or climatic conditions explain observed patterns of variation. Our findings, based on a culturally-transmitted and sexually-selected trait, support the hypothesis that three evolutionary units exist within this taxon. Our results suggest that song differences between genetic groups were influenced by historical isolation. We report a strong relationship between vocal dissimilarity and genetic distance, suggesting that differences in vocal characteristics are probably affected by the same factors that drive genetic divergence. We argue that the evolution of song in this taxon is influenced by vicariant events, followed by accumulation of changes in song structure due to several possible factors: cultural drift in song structure; genetic drift in features related to song production; or natural selection acting on features that influence songs, such as body and beak size. © 2013 The Authors. Journal of Avian Biology © 2013 Nordic Society Oikos.