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Evolution. 2009 Jan;63(1):153-64. doi: 10.1111/j.1558-5646.2008.00530.x. Epub 2008 Sep 18.

Plumage and song differences mediate species recognition between incipient flycatcher species of the Solomon Islands.

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Department of Biology, Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York 13244, USA.


Changes in mating signals among populations contribute to species formation. Often these signals involve a suite of display traits of different sensory modalities ("multimodal signals"); however, few studies have tested the consequences of multimodal signal divergence with most focusing on only a single divergent signal or suite of signals of the same sensory modality. Populations of the chestnut-bellied flycatcher Monarcha castaneiventris vary in song and plumage color across the Solomon Islands. Using taxidermic mount presentation and song playback experiments, we tested for the relative roles of divergent song and color in homotypic ("same type") recognition between one pair of recently diverged sister taxa (the nominate chestnut-bellied M. c. castaneiventris and the white-capped M. c. richardsii forms). We found that both plumage and song type influenced the intensity of aggressive response by territory-owners, with plumage color playing a stronger role. These results indicate that differences in plumage and song are used in homotypic recognition, suggesting the importance of multimodal signal divergence in the evolution of premating reproductive isolation.

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