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: Giant singers from neighboring oceans share song parts over time

Related Stories

Major tsunami struck southern China in 1076, say scientists

January 3, 2019

A major tsunami struck China's southern coast in 1076 causing "drastic cultural decline", Chinese researchers say, in a study with implications for a densely populated region boasting multiple coastal nuclear power plants.

Recommended for you

Scientists ID another possible threat to orcas: pink salmon

January 19, 2019

Over the years, scientists have identified dams, pollution and vessel noise as causes of the troubling decline of the Pacific Northwest's resident killer whales. Now, they may have found a new and more surprising culprit: ...

Targeting 'hidden pocket' for treatment of stroke and seizure

January 19, 2019

The ideal drug is one that only affects the exact cells and neurons it is designed to treat, without unwanted side effects. This concept is especially important when treating the delicate and complex human brain. Now, scientists ...

Classic double-slit experiment in a new light

January 18, 2019

An international research team led by physicists from the University of Cologne has implemented a new variant of the basic double-slit experiment using resonant inelastic X-ray scattering at the European Synchrotron ESRF ...

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.