Call divergence is correlated with geographic and genetic distance in greenish warblers (Phylloscopus trochiloides): a strong role for stochasticity in signal evolution?


Darren E. Irwin, Department of Zoology, University of British Columbia, 6270 University Blvd, Vancouver, BC, Canada V6T 1Z4.
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Divergence in signalling systems might play a central role in speciation. To assess the importance of possible causes of signal divergence, we examine two types of vocalizations within a geographically variable species complex, the greenish warblers (Phylloscopus trochiloides Sundevall). Calls, which are used by both sexes throughout the year, and songs, which are sung primarily by breeding males, differ distinctly between two distinct Siberian forms. Through a ring of southern populations that connect the northern forms, signal divergence is correlated with both geographic distance and genetic divergence. Calls and songs differ in their particular patterns of geographic variation, probably because of the larger influence of sexual selection on songs than on calls. These patterns are supportive of neither acoustic adaptation nor morphology being major drivers of divergence in vocalizations. Rather, these results support the importance of stochastic evolution of communication systems in the evolution of new species.