Song divergence between subspecies of reed bunting is more pronounced in singing styles under sexual selection

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Abstract

Song divergence between populations of a species can lead to reproductive isolation and speciation. However, birds may have different singing styles used in distinct social contexts, and songs of each style may change at different rates over time and space. Here, we tested whether song divergence between subspecies of reed bunting, Emberiza schoeniclus, differs with singing style, by comparing song traits of its three singing styles among three subspecies breeding in northern and western Europe. We show that the two singing styles under sexual selection (dawn and fast songs, related to obtaining extrapair and social mates, respectively) diverged significantly more than the slow songs (used as an all-clear signal to nest- attending social females). Multiple song traits differed significantly between the subspecies in all singing styles, with E. s. lusitanica generally being intermediate between E. s. schoeniclus and E. s. witherbyi, and the pattern of song complexity opposing the expected latitudinal gradient (of increasing complexity with increasing latitude). Cluster analyses of populations indicate that sexually selected singing styles are better for discriminating subspecies, describing a scenario of a major split in song features between the migratory, northern E. s. schoeniclus and the two resident, southern subspecies, rather than a clinal variation. The greater song divergence in fast and dawn singing styles suggests that sexual selection may be playing an important role in the incipient speciation of reed buntings.

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  • Behavioral Sciences Biology
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)221-231
JournalAnimal Behaviour
Volume107
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Publication categoryResearch
Peer-reviewedYes