Female, but Not Male, Tropical Sparrows Respond More Strongly to the Local Song Dialect: Implications for Population Divergence


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University of Chicago Press


In addition to the observed high diversity of species in the tropics, divergence among populations of the same species exists over short geographic distances in both phenotypic traits and neutral genetic markers. Divergence among populations suggests great potential for the evolution of reproductive isolation and eventual speciation. In birds, song can evolve quickly through cultural transmission and result in regional dialects, which can be a critical component of reproductive isolation through variation in female preference. We examined female and male behavioral responses to local and nonlocal dialects in two allopatric populations of rufous-collared sparrows (Zonotrichia capensis) in the Andes Mountains of Ecuador. Here we show that female sparrows prefer their natal song dialect to the dialect of an allopatric population that is just 25 km away and separated by an unsuitable higher-elevation habitat (pass of 4,200 m), thus providing evidence of prezygotic reproductive isolation among populations. Males showed similar territorial responses to all conspecific dialects with no consistent difference with respect to distance, making male territoriality uninformative for estimating reproductive isolation. This study provides novel evidence for culturally based prezygotic isolation over very short distances in a tropical bird.



reproductive isolation, tropics, female choice, song dialects, zonotrichia capensis, white-crowned sparrows, rufous-collared sparrow, zonotrichia-capensis, species recognition, latitudinal variation, geographic-variation, vocal, dialects, bird song, historical diversification, character displacement, ecology, evolutionary biology


Julie E. Danner, Raymond M. Danner, Frances Bonier, Paul R. Martin, Thomas W. Small, and Ignacio T. Moore. "Female, but Not Male, Tropical Sparrows Respond More Strongly to the Local Song Dialect: Implications for Population Divergence," The American Naturalist, Vol. 178, No. 1 (July 2011), pp. 53-63. DOI: 10.1086/660283