Sexual selection for both diversity and repetition in birdsong

Sierro, Javier and de Kort, Selvino R. and Hartley, Ian R. (2023) Sexual selection for both diversity and repetition in birdsong. Nature Communications, 14 (1). ISSN 2041-1723

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From fiddler crabs to humans, animals perform repetitive displays showing neuromotor skill and vigour. Consistent repetition of identical notes (vocal consistency) facilitates the assessment of neuromotor skills and is important in communication in birds. Most birdsong research has focused on song diversity as a signal of individual quality, which seems contradictory as repetition is extremely common in most species. Here we show that consistent repetition within songs is positively correlated with reproductive success in male blue tits (Cyanistes caeruleus). A playback experiment shows that females are sexually aroused by male songs with high levels of vocal consistency, which also peaks seasonally during the fertile period of the female, supporting the role of vocal consistency in mate choice. Male vocal consistency also increases with subsequent repetitions of the same song type (a warm-up effect) which conflicts with the fact that females habituate to repeated song, showing decreased arousal. Importantly, we find that switching song types elicits significant dishabituation within the playback, supporting the habituation hypothesis as an evolutionary mechanism driving song diversity in birds. An optimal balance between repetition and diversity may explain the singing style of many bird species and displays of other animals.

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Journal Article
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Nature Communications
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Deposited On:
06 Jul 2023 10:05
Last Modified:
17 Sep 2023 03:27