Does bill size polymorphism affect courtship song characteristics in the African finch Pyrenestes ostrinus?

Authors

  • HANS SLABBEKOORN,

    Corresponding author
    1. Center for Tropical Research and Department of Biology, San Francisco State University, San Francisco, CA 94132, U.S.A.
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  • THOMAS B. SMITH

    1. Center for Tropical Research and Department of Biology, San Francisco State University, San Francisco, CA 94132, U.S.A.
    2. Center for Population Biology, University of California, Davis, CA 95616, U.S.A.
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*E-mail: slabbeko@sfsu.edu

Abstract

Vocal characteristics of bill morphs of the African finch Pyrenestes ostrinus were investigated to see whether there were differences between the morphs that could potentially lead to assortative mating. Morphological differences between bill morphs are of a scale that could change resonance characteristics, with as a physical consequence, a change in acoustic characteristics. Song and variation in acoustic characteristics are very likely to be an important factor in mate choice. We analysed recordings of large and small-billed birds, and measured 11 acoustic characteristics focusing on frequency use and possibly correlated temporal features. In addition, we investigated in more detail the energy distribution within the frequency limits. We found no differences between bill morphs in acoustic characteristics of courtship song. Our findings contrast with other empirical studies which show an impact of the suprasyringeal vocal tract on song output. One possible explanation could be that the morphological changes affect resonance characteristics in multiple ways which do not operate in concert. Beside proximate aspects, we discuss the role of song and the bill polymorphism in the context of sympatric speciation.

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