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Biol Lett. 2012 Oct 23;8(5):751-3. doi: 10.1098/rsbl.2012.0481. Epub 2012 Jul 18.

Song in the cold is 'hot': memory of and preference for sexual signals perceived under thermal challenge.

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  • 1Department of Biology, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3280, USA. mbeaulie@live.unc.edu

Abstract

The environmental conditions under which signals are perceived can affect receiver responses. Many songbird populations produce a song chorus at dawn, when, in cold habitats, they would experience thermal challenge. We recorded temperature and the song activity of Lincoln's sparrows (Melospiza lincolnii) on a high-elevation meadow, and determined that song behaviour is concentrated around the coldest time of the day, at dawn. We hypothesized that this is because male song in the cold is more attractive to females than song in the warm. To test this, we exposed laboratory-housed Lincoln's sparrow females to songs at 1°C and 16°C, which they naturally experience in the wild. Females spent 40 per cent more time close to the speaker during playback at 1°C than at 16°C. When tested at 16°C 1-2 days later, females biased their movement towards the speaker playing songs previously heard at 1°C over 16°C. Thus, female Lincoln's sparrows remembered and affiliated with songs they heard under thermal challenge, indicating that the thermal environment can affect the attractiveness of a sexual signal.

PMID:
22809726
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC3441005
Free PMC Article
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