Geographic song discrimination in relation to dispersal distances in song sparrows.


Journal Article

Whether geographic variation in signals actually affects communication between individuals depends on whether discriminable differences in signals occur over distances that individuals move in their lifetimes. We measure the ability of song sparrows (Melospiza melodia) to discriminate foreign from local songs using foreign songs recorded at a series of increasing distances and compare the results with previous measurements of dispersal distances. We test discrimination in males using playback of songs on territories and measuring approach and in females using playback to estradiol-treated captives and measuring courtship display. Females fail to discriminate against foreign songs recorded at 18 km but do discriminate against foreign songs recorded at 34, 68, 135, and 540 km. Males fail to discriminate against foreign songs recorded at 18, 34, 68, 135, and 270 km but do discriminate against foreign songs from 540 km. Females are more discriminating, but even they do not discriminate at a distance three times the root-mean-square dispersal distance, as estimated from mtDNA variation. We suggest that female preference for local songs benefits females not because it allows them to reject foreign males but because accurate production of local song serves as a test of song-learning ability.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Searcy, WA; Nowicki, S; Hughes, M; Peters, S

Published Date

  • March 2002

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 159 / 3

Start / End Page

  • 221 - 230

PubMed ID

  • 18707375

Pubmed Central ID

  • 18707375

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1537-5323

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0003-0147

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1086/338509


  • eng