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: An uphill climb for mountain species?

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

How rockstars and peacocks attract the ladies

Jul 21, 2014

What is it that makes rockstars so attractive to the opposite sex? Turns out Charles Darwin had it pegged hundreds of years ago – and it has a lot to do with peacocks.

Rare white whale spotted off Sydney

Jun 20, 2014

An extremely rare white humpback whale has been spotted off the coast of Sydney in an event onlookers called a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Marine scientist's quest to save coral

Jun 09, 2014

More than half the world's coral reefs have died since the dawn of the industrial age, due to human activities and ever increasing ocean temperatures. Stanford's Steve Palumbi has a plan for bringing them ...

New species discoveries in the Greater Mekong

Jun 05, 2014

A giant flying squirrel, a skydiving gecko, a fish that mates head-to-head, and an eyeless cave-dwelling spider are among the 367 new species revealed by scientists in the Greater Mekong region in 2012-2013, ...

Recommended for you

An uphill climb for mountain species?

7 hours ago

A recently published paper provides a history of scientific research on mountain ecosystems, looks at the issues threatening wildlife in these systems, and sets an agenda for biodiversity conservation throughout ...

Extinctions during human era worse than thought

9 hours ago

It's hard to comprehend how bad the current rate of species extinction around the world has become without knowing what it was before people came along. The newest estimate is that the pre-human rate was ...

User comments : 0