Singing in the rainforest: Public vs. private signaling by a tropical rainforest bird

Feb 13, 2008

According to the Chinese proverb, a bird sings because it has a song, not because it has an answer. A team of French and Brazilian researchers, however, may have the answer as to how the song of Brazilian white-browed warbler has become so well-adapted to the acoustic properties of the rainforest environment. The study, led by Nicolas Mathevon and Thierry Aubin, is published in the online, open-access journal PLoS ONE on February 13.

Understanding the evolution of acoustic communication systems in animals is a hot topic in evolutionary biology and one of the main challenges is to understand how environmental pressures drive this evolution. Mathevon and his colleagues show that the song of the white-browed warbler, a species living in the Brazilian Atlantic rainforest is particularly well-tailored to the acoustic properties of the environment, with its dense vegetation and can vary in its acoustic properties depending on whether the message is “public” or “private.”

Territorial males signal their species identity using a song acoustic feature resistant to propagation, making this information available to remote individuals. Conversely, information concerning their individual identity is supported by song features susceptible to propagation, and thus restricted to neighbours.

Besides this public versus private signalling, males can locate the singers by using propagation-induced song modifications. The design of this communication thus appears well matched to the acoustic constraints of the rainforest and to the ecological requirements of the species.

These results emphasize that the efficiency of a sound communication system results from a coding/decoding process particularly well tuned to the acoustic properties of the environment. This allows the establishment of efficient local communication networks in the particular habitat of a tropical forest.

The tropical rainforest ecosystem provides a unique opportunity to experimentally test theoretical models of acoustic communication. This emphasizes the critical importance of tropical areas for addressing key biological questions and reinforces the urgency for protecting such major biodiversity hotspots as those of the Brazilian Atlantic forest.

Citation: Mathevon N, Aubin T, Vielliard J, da Silva M-L, Sebe F, et al (2008) Singing in the Rain Forest: How a Tropical Bird Song Transfers Information. PLoS ONE 3(2): e1580. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0001580 (www.plosone.org/doi/pone.0001580)

Source: Public Library of Science

Explore further: Too hot: Temperatures messing with sex of Australian lizards

Related Stories

Risky ripples: Frog's love song may summon kiss of death

Jan 23, 2014

Male túngara frogs call from puddles to attract females. The production of the call incidentally creates ripples that spread across the water. Researchers at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in ...

Recommended for you

'Map of life' predicts ET. (So where is he?)

1 hour ago

Extra-terrestrials that resemble humans should have evolved on other, Earth-like planets, making it increasingly paradoxical that we still appear to be alone in the universe, the author of a new study on ...

Baby seals that practice in pools make better divers

1 hour ago

Being able to dive is what matters most for seal pups, but how do they learn to do it? Grey seal pups that can play in pools may have better diving skills once they make the move to the sea, and this could ...

Insect legs give clues to improving aircraft design

1 hour ago

Insect legs could help engineers improve the safety of long tubular structures used in aircraft to reduce weight and in hospital equipment, such as catheters. Scientists from Trinity College Dublin are looking ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.