All signals are not equal: Acoustic signalling of individuality, sex and breeding status in a cooperative breeder

Miyako H. Warrington, Paul G. McDonald, Lee Ann Rollins, Simon C. Griffith*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    17 Citations (Scopus)


    Repeated interactions between individuals in socially living animals select for the evolution of signals that convey information identifying individuals or categories of individuals, which may enable the discrimination of familiar versus unfamiliar individuals. Such information may help animals maximize their inclusive fitness by adjusting their own behaviour, allowing them to avoid conflict, preferentially direct help and/or ignore unreliable individuals. Acoustic signals in birds provide the potential to encode individual-specific information. We examined the degree to which individual identity, sex, breeding status, group membership and genetic relatedness were related to variability in six different call types, which occurred across a variety of different behavioural contexts in the apostlebird, Struthidea cinerea, a socially living and cooperatively breeding Australian passerine. We demonstrated that not all calls reflected the same extent of information. Of the six call types, call variation was related to individual identity in three call types, breeding status in two call types and sex and group relatedness in one call type. Finally, variation in two call types was not related to any of the measured variables. Our results suggest that some, but not all, acoustic signals in apostlebirds may be selected for individual distinctiveness between individuals and categories of individuals (male versus female, breeder versus nonbreeder), and these signals may be important in determining levels of cooperation and interaction between individuals in this cooperatively breeding society.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)249-260
    Number of pages12
    JournalAnimal Behaviour
    Publication statusPublished - Jul 2014


    • Apostlebird
    • Call signatures
    • Cooperation
    • Group living
    • Individually distinct calls
    • Relatedness
    • SPCC
    • Sociality
    • Vocalizations


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