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Anim Behav. 2008 Sep;76(3):1017-1027.

Stability and change in vocal dialects of the yellow-naped amazon.

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Department of Biology, New Mexico State University.


Cultural evolution is an important force in creating and maintaining behavioral variation in some species. Vocal dialects have provided a useful model for the study of cultural evolution and its interactions with genetic evolution. This study examined the acoustic and geographic changes in vocal dialects over an eleven-year span in the yellow-naped amazon, Amazona auropalliata, in Costa Rica. Contact calls were recorded at 16 communal night roosts in 1994 and 19 roosts in 2005, with 12 roosts sampled in both surveys. In both surveys three dialects were found, each characterized by a distinctive contact call type and each encompassing multiple roosts. The limits between two of these dialects, the North and South dialects, was found to be geographically stable, while at the boundary between the North and Nicaraguan dialect there was introgression of each call type into roosts in the bordering dialect. Acoustic measurements and cross-correlations of spectrograms detected no change in the acoustic structure of contact calls in the South dialect but did show significant differences in the calls of both the North and Nicaraguan dialect between 1994 and 2005. These results are consistent with the vocal convergence hypothesis that proposes that dialects are long-term features maintained through some combination of biased transmission of local call types and purifying selection against foreign call types. Migration, copying errors and cultural drift may also play a role in the more subtle changes seen in the acoustic form of dialect call types.

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