Noise-induced vocal plasticity in urban white-crowned sparrows does not involve adjustment of trill performance components

Publication Type:Journal Article
Year of Publication:2019
Journal:Scientific Reports
Date Published:Jan-12-2019

Background noise can interfere with acoustic communication and subsequently influence signaling behavior. Immediate signaling flexibility (ISF) is a context-dependent form of behavioral plasticity that allows animals to temporarily change their acoustic behavior in response to noise fluctuations and potentially improve the chances of successful communication in noisy environments. The adaptive value of ISF is ultimately contingent on the response of the intended receiver, and there are differential effects on receiver response depending on which signal component is modified. However, there is scant research on whether ISF involves modification of a signal component specifically linked to mate attraction or territory defense. Our study addresses this knowledge gap and provides important insight into whether males employ short-term signal modification in a manner that could affect mate pairing success in birds. Specifically, we explore the maladaptive potential of ISF in the San Francisco, California population of Zonotrichia leucophrys nuttalli by testing for changes in trill bandwidth and rate—the specific trill structure components known to influence the receiver’s perception of vocal performance in this species—before and during noise broadcast experiments. Although Zonotrichia leucophrys nuttalli are capable of ISF, we found no evidence that noise induces temporary adjustment of the trill structure traits used by receivers to assess vocal performance.

Short Title:Sci Rep
BioAcoustica ID: 
Scratchpads developed and conceived by (alphabetical): Ed Baker, Katherine Bouton Alice Heaton Dimitris Koureas, Laurence Livermore, Dave Roberts, Simon Rycroft, Ben Scott, Vince Smith