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Partial song matching in an eastern population of song sparrows, Melospiza melodia

Summary: Partial song matching in an eastern population of
song sparrows, Melospiza melodia
*Department of Biology, University of Miami, Coral Gables, Florida
yDepartment of Biology, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina
(Received 5 May 2003; initial acceptance 7 August 2003;
final acceptance 9 February 2004; published online 23 November 2004; MS. number: A9604R)
One hypothesis for the function of vocal repertoires in songbirds is that singing multiple song types
facilitates song matching, a behaviour in which one male replies to a rival's song with a song of the same
type. In eastern populations of song sparrows, low levels of whole song sharing restrict opportunities for
matching of entire song types. A male in this population might still match a neighbour by replying with
a partially shared song (i.e. a song that contains one or more phrases in common with the neighbour's
song). We tested for partial matching in a Pennsylvania population using playback of three categories of
song: self song (allowing a full match), stranger song (a control allowing no match) and hybrid self/
stranger song (allowing a partial match). We also tested the hypothesis that matching is a directed signal of
aggressive intentions by comparing subjects' approach distances between trials in which they did and did
not match. Males in our study matched in response to both self song (21 of 39 trials) and hybrid song (23
of 40 trials) at levels significantly greater than expected based on control trials (5 of 40 trials). Males that
performed a partial match to a hybrid song approached the speaker more closely than males that did not
match, consistent with the hypothesis that partial matching is a directed signal of aggression. Self song


Source: Anderson, Rindy C. - Department of Biology, Duke University


Collections: Environmental Sciences and Ecology; Biology and Medicine