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Evolution. 2007 Aug;61(8):1938-45.

Evolution of bird song affects signal efficacy: an experimental test using historical and current signals.

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Duke University, Biology Department, P.O. Box 90338, Durham, North Carolina 27708, USA.


Mating signals act as behavioral barriers to gene flow in many animal taxa, yet little is known about how signal evolution within populations contributes to the formation of these barriers. Although variation in mating signals among populations is known to affect mating behavior, there is no direct evidence that the evolution of mating signals changes signal effectiveness within a natural population. Making use of historical recordings of bird song, I found that both male and female white-crowned sparrows (Zonotrichia leucophrys) respond more strongly to current than to historical songs, indicating that historical songs are less effective as signals in the current contexts of both mate choice and male-male competition. Finding that historical signals are less effective suggests that signal evolution within populations may ultimately contribute to the formation of behavioral barriers to gene flow between populations.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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