Male territorial vocalizations and responses are decoupled in an avian hybrid zone

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A core area of speciation research concerns the coevolution of species-specific signals and the selective sensitivity to such signals. Signals and responses to them should be tuned to each other, to be effective in intraspecific communication. Hybrid zones are ideal to study the presence of such 'behavioural coupling' and the mechanisms governing it, and this has rarely been done. Our study examines acoustic signals of males and their response to them in the context of territorial interactions in a natural hybrid zone between two dove species, Streptopelia vinacea and Streptopelia capicola. Male signals are important in hybrid zone dynamics as they are essential for territory establishment, which is crucial for successful reproduction. We tested whether the response of individual male hybrids is linked to how similar their own signal is to the playback signal. We did not find evidence for behavioural coupling. The combined evidence from the low level of response to hybrid and heterospecific signals outside the hybrid zone and a lack of coupling within the hybrid zone suggests that perceptual learning may explain our results. Learning to respond to locally abundant signals may be the best individual strategy and is likely to contribute to the maintenance of a hybrid zone.




Den Hartog, P. M., Slabbekoorn, H., & Ten Cate, C. (2008). Male territorial vocalizations and responses are decoupled in an avian hybrid zone. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 363(1505), 2879–2889.

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