Ecological correlates of song complexity in white-rumped munias: The implication of relaxation of selection as a cause for signal variation in birdsong

Interaction Studies 13 (2):263-284 (2012)
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Abstract

Male white-rumped munias sing syntactically simpler songs than their domestic counterparts, Bengalese finches. The differences in song structure may reflect differences in natural selection pressures between wild and domestic environments. Deacon (2010) proposed song simplicity of the wild strain could be subject to natural selection. We hypothesized the selection pressure may be species identification. Thus, we compared song variations in relation to ecological factors and dispersal history of white-rumped munias to understand song evolutionary processes. We found geographic variations of song syntactical complexity. The difference of song syntactical complexity did not corresponded to genetic distance, but did to that of the proportion of mixed flocks with sympatric related species. Birds that inhabited the areas with more mixed flocks sang simpler songs. The song complexity might be constrained to intensify distinct conspecific signals from related species. Our field work provided empirical evidence supporting a proposal made by Deacon (2010). Keywords: birdsong; evolution; masking hypothesis; Bengalese finches; song geographic variation; genetic variation

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