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Abstract

The question of why animals participate in duets is an intriguing one, as many such displays appear to be more costly to produce than individual signals. Mated pairs of yellow-naped amazons, Amazona auropalliata, give duets on their nesting territories. We investigated the function of those duets with a playback experiment. We tested two hypotheses for the function of those duets: the joint territory defense hypothesis and the mate-guarding hypothesis, by presenting territorial pairs with three types of playback treatments: duets, male solos, and female solos. The joint territory defense hypothesis suggests that individuals engage in duets because they appear more threatening than solos and are thus more effective for the establishment, maintenance and/or defense of territories. It predicts that pairs will be coordinated in their response (pair members approach speakers and vocalize together) and will either respond more strongly (more calls and/or more movement) to duet treatments than to solo treatments, or respond equally to all treatments. Alternatively, the mate-guarding hypothesis suggests that individuals participate in duets because they allow them to acoustically guard their mate, and predicts uncoordinated responses by pairs, with weak responses to duet treatments and stronger responses by individuals to solos produced by the same sex. Yellow-naped amazon pairs responded to all treatments in an equivalently aggressive and coordinated manner by rapidly approaching speakers and vocalizing more. These responses generally support the joint territory defense hypothesis and further suggest that all intruders are viewed as a threat by resident pairs.