Send to

Choose Destination
Nat Commun. 2014 Mar 4;5:3379. doi: 10.1038/ncomms4379.

Female song is widespread and ancestral in songbirds.

Author information

Department of Biological Sciences, University of Maryland, Baltimore County, Baltimore, Maryland 21250, USA.
Department of Zoology, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria 3010, Australia.
Institute of Biology (IBL), Leiden University, 2333 BE Leiden, The Netherlands.
Research School of Biology, The Australian National University, Acton, ACT 0200, Australia.


Bird song has historically been considered an almost exclusively male trait, an observation fundamental to the formulation of Darwin's theory of sexual selection. Like other male ornaments, song is used by male songbirds to attract females and compete with rivals. Thus, bird song has become a textbook example of the power of sexual selection to lead to extreme neurological and behavioural sex differences. Here we present an extensive survey and ancestral state reconstruction of female song across songbirds showing that female song is present in 71% of surveyed species including 32 families, and that females sang in the common ancestor of modern songbirds. Our results reverse classical assumptions about the evolution of song and sex differences in birds. The challenge now is to identify whether sexual selection alone or broader processes, such as social or natural selection, best explain the evolution of elaborate traits in both sexes.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Nature Publishing Group
Loading ...
Support Center