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

Mar 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: Aging white lion euthanized at Ohio zoo

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

International team maps 'big bang' of bird evolution

Dec 11, 2014

The genomes of modern birds tell a story of how they emerged and evolved after the mass extinction that wiped out dinosaurs and almost everything else 66 million years ago. That story is now coming to light, ...

Humpback whales increasing in waters near NYC

Dec 10, 2014

Maybe they want to sing on Broadway. Humpback whales, the gigantic, endangered mammals known for their haunting underwater songs, have been approaching New York City in greater numbers than even old salts ...

Scientist creates automatic birdsong recognition app

Oct 30, 2014

Dr Dan Stowell, an EPSRC Research Fellow in QMUL's School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, has used a grant from Queen Mary Innovation to develop a prototype for an app that turns his research ...

Recommended for you

A vegetarian carnivorous plant

Dec 19, 2014

Carnivorous plants catch and digest tiny animals in order and derive benefits for their nutrition. Interestingly the trend towards vegetarianism seems to overcome carnivorous plants as well. The aquatic carnivorous bladderwort, ...

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.