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Keywords:

  • Character displacement;
  • convergent evolution;
  • interspecific competition;
  • signal evolution;
  • species recognition;
  • suboscine birds;
  • territorial signals

Natural selection is known to produce convergent phenotypes through mimicry or ecological adaptation. It has also been proposed that social selection—i.e., selection exerted by social competition—may drive convergent evolution in signals mediating interspecific communication, yet this idea remains controversial. Here, we use color spectrophotometry, acoustic analyses, and playback experiments to assess the hypothesis of adaptive signal convergence in two competing nonsister taxa, Hypocnemis peruviana and H. subflava (Aves: Thamnophilidae). We show that the structure of territorial songs in males overlaps in sympatry, with some evidence of convergent character displacement. Conversely, nonterritorial vocal and visual signals in males are strikingly diagnostic, in line with 6.8% divergence in mtDNA sequences. The same pattern of variation applies to females. Finally, we show that songs in both sexes elicit strong territorial responses within and between species, whereas songs of a third, allopatric and more closely related species (H. striata) are structurally divergent and elicit weaker responses. Taken together, our results provide compelling evidence that social selection can act across species boundaries to drive convergent or parallel evolution in taxa competing for space and resources.