Effects of early auditory experience on the development of local song preference in female swamp sparrows
A growing number of studies show that learning about male mating signals can shape the way females discriminate among males and may influence the evolution of both female preferences and the male traits under selection. Female songbirds commonly prefer local songs over foreign songs from a different population. In some species, however, the extent of variation among songs sung by different males within a population is as great as the variation observed between populations, raising the question of how females are able to discriminate local from foreign songs. Here, we report that laboratory-reared female swamp sparrows (Melospiza georgiana) not only show a preference for the particular song types with which they were tutored as compared with both foreign songs and unfamiliar local songs but also show preference for unfamiliar local songs over unfamiliar foreign songs. An acoustic analysis comparing tutor songs and those presented as unfamiliar local and foreign songs suggests that female swamp sparrows might be attuned to the specifics of local note phonology when assessing the attractiveness of unfamiliar songs. Our results demonstrate that early auditory experience influences response to geographic song variation in female swamp sparrows, and suggest the possibility that female songbirds may generalize what they learn from songs early in life to novel songs heard in adulthood. Additional work is needed to evaluate the contribution of unlearned predispositions for local song. © 2014 Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg.
Anderson, RC; Peters, S; Nowicki, S
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