SEARCH

SEARCH BY CITATION

Abstract

Acoustic signals are very important in communication among conspecifics for many animals, especially in relatively dark, densely foliated habitat such as tropical rainforest. However, as many species all have to use the same acoustic space, this may lead to interference and masking. Songs will function efficiently in attracting mates or defending territories depending on the level of spectral and temporal overlap with songs of other species in the local community. As signal efficiency has direct fitness consequences, organisms may have evolved a strategy to avoid competition for acoustic space. We hypothesize that, as a consequence, species in a complex rainforest community may show spectral segregation or temporal avoidance: singing at a different frequency or at a different time. As doing both is superfluous and acoustic space is limited, we expect a negative correlation between spectral and temporal overlap. We tested this hypothesis in recordings of 20 vocally dominant bird species from 14 families in a Peruvian rainforest. Using pair-wise comparisons between bird species, we found one significant correlation between spectral overlap and temporal overlap. All others were non-significant. However, we did find that, at frequencies more often used by multiple bird species, there was significantly less overlap than expected if all species were just singing randomly ignorant of each other’s songs. Our analyses indicate that short-term auditory feedback mechanisms may also operate in the biodiverse environments of the tropics and may explain part of the community dynamics of acoustic signalling in the rainforest.