The song doesn't remain the same in fragmented bird populations

March 19, 2008

The song of passerine birds is a conspicuous and exaggerated display shaped by sexual selection in the context of male-male competition or mate attraction. At the level of the individual, song is considered an indicator of male ‘quality’.

Paola Laiolo and colleagues at the Spanish Council of Research (CSIC) studied the metapopulation system of the Dupont’s lark in north-eastern Spain and found an association between individual song diversity and the viability of the population as a whole, as measured by the annual rate of population change. This association arises because males from the most numerous and productive populations, i.e. those less prone to extinction, sang songs with greater complexity. The findings are published in this week’s PLoS ONE.

Birds from smaller populations sang less complex songs as they experienced a poor cultural milieu (as songs are learned), and had possibly a lower mating success. Cultural attributes may therefore reflect not only individual-level characteristics, but also emergent population-level properties. This finding opens the way to the study of animal cultural diversity in the increasingly common human-altered landscapes.

More than 500 songbird species are globally threatened, most of them because of habitat loss and fragmentation in a variety of ecosystems and remote regions. In these conditions, traditional long-term population monitoring is a difficult if not unaffordable task. Given its easily quantifiable nature, this study suggests that birdsong could become an early warning signal of populations in trouble.

Citation: Laiolo P, Vögeli M, Serrano D, Tella JL (2008) Song Diversity Predicts the Viability of Fragmented Bird Populations. PLoS ONE 3(3): e1822. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0001822

Source: Public Library of Science

Explore further: Taking small steps for vulnerable migrants

Related Stories

Taking small steps for vulnerable migrants

August 25, 2015

Our earliest human ancestors migrated for reasons of survival: food, shelter and more hospitable climates. Fast forward to the 21st century, human migration has evolved into a complex equation of push and pull factors spanning ...

Dark plumage helps birds survive on small islands

July 22, 2015

Animal populations on islands tend to develop weird traits over time, becoming big (like Galapagos tortoises) or small (like extinct dwarf elephants) or losing the ability to fly (like the flightless parrots of New Zealand).

Recommended for you

New nanomaterial maintains conductivity in 3-D

September 4, 2015

An international team of scientists has developed what may be the first one-step process for making seamless carbon-based nanomaterials that possess superior thermal, electrical and mechanical properties in three dimensions.

0 comments

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.