Increased syllable rate during aggressive singing in a bird with complex and fast song

Caterina Funghi, Gonçalo C. Cardoso, Paulo G. Mota

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Sexual signals can comprise traits with multiple functions, and species with extreme phenotypes offer an opportunity to link function with signal evolution. This is the case in the serin Serinus serinus, a songbird with extremely fast syllable rate compared to related finches, and high sound frequency for its body size. Previous work on receiver responses showed that playback of artificially increased syllable rate is avoided and inhibits vocal responses, suggesting it is perceived as aggressive, while, on the contrary, higher sound frequency appears preferred by females. We tested whether senders also change these traits during aggressive singing, with a field playback experiment. Serin males responding aggressively by approaching the playback loudspeaker also increased syllable rate, while males responding less aggressively did not change syllable rate. Together with work on receiver responses, this suggests that aggressive signalling may have been an important selective pressure for the evolution of extremely fast syllable rate in this species. It is noteworthy that aggressive male serins still increase syllable rate, despite of their already elevated natural syllable rate. We found no changes in sound frequency when singing aggressively, which agrees with previous work that instead showed a female preference for high song frequency. We conclude that the evolution of extreme traits in serin song is best explained by multiple functions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)283-288
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Avian Biology
Volume46
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2015
Externally publishedYes

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