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Divergence in mating signals correlates with ecological variation in the migratory songbird, Swainson's thrush (Catharus ustulatus)


K. Ruegg, Fax: 510-643-8238; E-mail:


Song divergence among populations of passerine birds is recognized as a potentially important premating isolation mechanism and may represent the first step in speciation. Because song divergence may be influenced by an array of acoustic, ecological, and genetic factors, the study of its origin requires a multifaceted approach. Here we describe the relationship between acoustic, neutral genetic and ecological variation in five populations of the Swainson's thrush: two from coastal temperate rainforest habitat representing the ‘russet-backed’ subspecies group, two from inland coniferous forest habitat representing the ‘olive-backed’ subspecies group, and one mixed locality that resides within a contact zone between the two groups. Song in the five populations is analysed using a multivariate analysis of spectral and temporal measurements, population genetic structure is assessed using an analysis of five microsatellite loci and ecological differences between populations are quantified using an analysis of climatic parameters. Matrix correspondence tests are used to distinguish between the potential for drift and selection in driving song divergence. No significant correlation was found between acoustic and genetic distance suggesting that song divergence cannot be explained by drift alone. A significant correlation between ecological and acoustic distance after accounting for genetic distance, suggests a potential role for ecological selection on divergence in spectral and temporal components of Swainson's thrush song.